In addition to releasing a statement today regarding the MBTA’s proposed bus changes, Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller also shared these thoughts regarding the Newton Public Schools latest enrollment projections. (bold added below for emphasis)
The school enrollment forecast is critical, and it’s done thoughtfully, seriously and in-depth each year.
The Enrollment Analysis Report in November and the Enrollment Planning and Class Size Report issued this week show that while we have to pay attention to a few individual schools, the news is positive.
There are 65 fewer students enrolled in the Newton Public Schools this year, ending 13 years of increases (1,482 students were added between 2004 and 2017), and the five-year enrollment projections show the numbers remaining stable.
On Tuesday, the School Department presented the five-year enrollment forecast for each school and classroom. In general, enrollment at the elementary level is projected to remain steady or to decrease slightly, but we need to pay attention to Angier which is at capacity and at Pierce where numbers appear to be ticking up.
Middle school enrollment is projected to grow and then decrease over the next five years. Oak Hill, however, is projected to see a consistent increase because of the expanded Zervas School. That’s also a school we have to keep our eye on.
High school enrollment is relatively steady for a couple of years and then starts growing in the fall of 2022. It keeps growing until 2026 and then levels out. Class sizes and the percent of classes with 25 or more students at both high schools are slightly lower than last year, and the two schools are quite similar. Balancing class sizes at the high schools will be critical when enrollments grow in a few years.
This year we also dug deeper to get a full picture of what enrollment will look like over the next 10 years. A professional demographer looked at all types of indicators, including the impact of potential new developments (Northland, Riverside, Riverdale and Chestnut Hill Square) on school enrollment. (Projects that have already been approved by the City Council, such as Austin Street and Washington Place, are included in the five-year forecast–again, our efforts to ‘dig deeper’ are focusing on yet-to-be-approved projects.)
The full report will be available in the next month or two, but the preview indicates that even if all four proposals are eventually approved by the City Council, enrollment would continue to be manageable with just a slight increase in students. Without the yet-to-be-approved developments, projections show an enrollment decline.
That’s good news for our schools, but it doesn’t mean our work is done. We need to make sure all our school buildings are in good condition and we keep our eyes on class sizes to make sure they are appropriate in all our schools and all our grades.