After focusing on space constraints at the elementary level for the last few years, the Newton Public Schools will soon be grappling with space challenges at its middle schools as well, NPS officials said during a special School Committee meeting Thursday.
Although the district is currently working on expanding F.A. Day Middle School -- a project that will result in six additional classrooms -- officials will have to make some changes to fit next year's student population into the other three middle schools.
According to Deputy Superintendent/Chief Administrative Officer Sandy Guryan, Bigelow, Brown and Oak Hill middle schools will require additional classrooms in the 2013-2014 school year. In order to create those spaces, the district is considering the following options:
- Bigelow: Move one of the specialized programs back to F.A. Day (it was moved to Bigelow during Day construction) and possibly adjust the split of students who feed in from Cabot Elementary School
- Brown: Reconfigure or renovate some of the school's existing space to make new classrooms
- Oak Hill: Explore internal space modifications and/or offer some students the opportunity to enroll at Brown
Guryan presented the space needs Thursday morning alongside updated student enrollment data that shows the current student population above the initial projections.
But the space troubles don't end with the middle schools -- similar to the last few years, the Newton Public Schools will continue to face space constraints in the elementary schools.
Focusing on just the next two years, Guryan said four elementary schools will have a classroom shortage in the 2013-2014 school year, including Angier, Bowen, Burr and Horace Mann. The following year, Lincoln-Eliot and Mason-Rice will need additional space.
Guryan said district administrators will have to "get creative" in finding some of the solutions to he space strain.
"They're not going to be simple solutions," Guryan said.
Some of the options the district is considering include reallocating space, internal modifications/renovations, adding modular classrooms and adjusting buffer zones.
The administration will likely make a recommendation on the space adjustments at the end of the month, Guryan said.
Even with these adjustments, though, officials said the district will have to make more substantial changes to deal with the large increases in enrollment, as adding modulars and buffer zones can't fix the long-term space problem.
"We're literally running out of space," Guryan said.
Many of the School Committee members showed concern for the lack of space, and underlined the importance of coming up with a solid long-term plan that will accommodate the growing student population instead of using small fixes year after year.
"It is alarming, our space crisis in our elementary schools, and it’s now across the city," Ward 2 School Committee member Jonathan Yeo said.
According to preliminary enrollment data presented Thursday, the district grew by 250 students this year, Guryan said, 58 students above the projection for the 2012-2013 school year and 41 more kindergarten students entering the system compared to last year.
That 250-student increase includes an additional 105 elementary students, 52 middle school students and 93 high school students.
With a 936-student kindergarten class this year, officials said it's likely Newton will soon have a 13,000-student district, or 1,000 students per grade.
At the start of this school year, Guryan told the committee the early enrollment data showed the student population increasing to a number larger than what the district had originally planned. This resulted in the addition of classrooms and teachers that were funded through the district's reserve account.
"The only way to really say it is: more growth," Guryan said Thursday morning. "And 'more growth' meaning even more [growth] than we thought we might see."
Last month, Mayor Setti Warren proposed an override package that includes funding for school operating costs related to enrollment growth. The package also includes a debt exclusion override for the rebuilding of Angier Elementary and renovation of Cabot Elementary.