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Newton Space Strain Continues; Early Student Enrollment Higher than Projected

Early numbers show the district has nearly 80 students above its initial projection for 2012-2013.

It's a common theme in the Newton Public Schools: kids keep coming and the space keeps shrinking. 

And, with early enrollment numbers coming in, it appears the 2012-2013 school year will be no different. 

"It is still early on, but the early [enrollment] numbers are telling us we have more students than we projected," Deputy Superintendent/Chief Administrative Officer Sandy Guryan said at last night's School Committee meeting.

According to Guryan, early numbers show the district has 12,193 total students, or 79 students above the initial enrollment projection for 2012-2013. This year's kindergarten class, which was initially projected to be at around 900 students, is currently at 933. 

But, with only one week of school down, those numbers could change, Guryan stressed.

"I don't consider this the final and formal count, but I know we need the information because we're trying to make sure schools get off on the right start," Guryan said.

The elementary schools have a net increase of 26 students from what was initially projected for the school year, Guryan said, with many of those extra students in "pockets" throughout the district rather than spread out evenly between the 15 elementary schools. 

According to Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Joe Russo, is one of those pockets and is "maxed out" for space. 

Currently the district has seven elementary schools with more than 400 students, Russo said, and all of the elementary schools have at least 300 students. 

In addition to straining space this year, the increase in students will also force the district to revise all of , Superintendent David Fleishman noted. 

"That is significant," Fleishman said. 

With new student enrollment numbers, the district will likely have to revise its , which aims to handle the city's rising student population and aging facilities.

Middle and high school enrollment is also on the rise, with secondary school numbers up by 60 students, according to Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Cindy Bergan. The largest increases, she said, are in and the 11th grade at .

Bergan reiterated that the current enrollment number is "a moving target." 

"It's really difficult to pinpoint [enrollment] during these early weeks," Bergan said, adding that the secondary enrollment is "especially" difficult to finalize as many students are still registering for school and classes.

To cope with the increase in students, Russo said the district has added 11.6 classrooms, with 2.6 of those added in the last two weeks. While some of the positions were covered already in the budget, others were funded through the district's reserve account, Guryan said. 

Although the high enrollment numbers underline Newton's reputation for quality education, Ward 2 Committee Member Jonathan Yeo reminded officials and committee members that larger enrollment numbers mean more budgetary needs and stresses in the coming years.

"It's a very big concern," Yeo said. "We need to plan for it."

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