Watertown Schools Preparing for Growing Enrollment

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Watertown’s schools will grow by more than 180 students over the next 10 years, according to projections by school officials, and the district will have to figure ways to fit these students into the schools. 

First priority is figuring out next year, the 2015-16 school year, when the school are expected to have four fewer students than the enrollment for the 2014-15 school year – 2,579 for PreK-12. The challenge next year will be the larger than normal grades at Cunniff and Hosmer schools, school officials said at Monday’s School Committee Budget and Finance Subcommittee meeting.

Cunniff’s two fourth grade classes are projected at 25 and 26 in 2015-16, and Hosmer’s third grade is projected to have three classes of 26 and one of 25.

Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald said the district plans to add a teacher to each of the schools, but not to create a new class.

“Both principals will use the teachers for smaller instructional groups,” Fitzgerald said. “Instruction for certain subjects will be broken into flexible groups. My experience as an elementary principal is that students like that.”

Parents at the meeting wondered whether school officials have considered having temporary portable classrooms while the “bubble” of students goes through the system.

“We have physical limitations creating another challenge,” said School Committee member John Portz. “It is a bigger issue and we will have to look at it.”

Long-term Growth

Projections for Watertown’s enrollment show a 7.5 percent growth over the next 10 years, or 182 more students in grades K-12, said the district’s Accountability Data Manager Lauren Harwood.

The number are based on numbers provided by the New England School Development Council and additional data collected by the district. The projections include birth data, projected births and housing growth data.

The growth is not expected to be uniform, Harwood said. PreK-5 enrollment is projected to grow from 1,315 this year to 1,505 in 2025. Enrollment in the middle school, grades 6-8, is projected to increase by 39 students to 608 in 2025. On the other hand, the high school is projected to shrink from 693 in 2014-15 to 658 in 2024-25.

“There is a lot of turn over from grade 8 to 9,” Harwood said. “Kids go to private school kids are going to Minuteman.”

Recently few students have left the district to go to private schools, Harwood said.

“We lost 10 students to private schools from grade 8 to 9, but three have since come back and now are freshmen at the high school,” Harwood said.

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