More students arrived at the Watertown Public Schools than expected this fall, requiring the addition of some new classes, teachers and support staff. Superintendent Dede Galdston told the School Committee on Monday that she believes the district’s new schools are part of the draw.
The 2022-23 school year is the first that students will spend the whole year in the new Cunniff and Hosmer elementary school buildings. Both schools have seen growth, particularly at the kindergarten level.
An additional kindergarten class has been added to both the Cunniff and the Hosmer.
“At Hosmer Elementary, where we have seen a pretty dramatic impact, we had to add a kindergarten classroom,” Galdston said. “Originally, we thought we would have five. That’s what it looked like in June when we had 90 students enrolled. Now we are at 121.”
The kindergarten classes at Hosmer range from 19 to 21 students. At Cunniff, kindergarten classes have either 15 or 16 students, Galdston said, because they ended up with too many pupils for just two classes.
“With 47 (students at Cunniff), you can’t have two classrooms with 24 students. That doesn’t meet our guidelines,” Galdston said. “We were able to add another classroom at that level, which was unanticipated. It is tied into the fact that we did have to add a couple new positions.”
Hosmer also has six first grade classrooms, Galdston said, because the school has 117 students in that grade.
Cunniff has a total of 326 students, while Hosmer has 596. Lowell Elementary School has 350 students, which Galdston said is underpopulated. This is due in part to the school being under construction and students being moved to both the former St. Jude’s School in Waltham and the former Phillips School on Common Street.
“We offered the opportunity to either go to the Hosmer or the Cunniff during the construction, which did help us due to the fact that we had limitations,” Galdston said. “The number of classrooms are down, but will go up again when the building opens up again and we do the redistricting and attendance zones.”
The total elementary school enrollment has grown by 58 from last year, and 35 from two years ago, before COVID-19, Galdston said.
School Committee member Lindsay Mosca asked whether there have been a large number of students coming in who do not speak English as their primary language. Galdston said it is similar to recent years, and the number of English as a second language students has doubled in the past five years. This has led to hiring more ESL teachers, and other staff.
“We have grown in the number of students. That doesn’t mean we just have to add a teacher,” she said. “We have to be able to support the entire program we have for our students.”
Galdston believes others have chosen to stay in the Watertown Schools.
“We are seeing people staying and I think people are making the decision about where they want to send their students for elementary school, primarily because we built these beautiful buildings,” Galdston said.
The enrollment at Watertown Middle School is 531, which is the same as last year. Watertown High School, however, is a different story.
“At the High School we have seen some incredible growth,” Galdston said. “Last year we were at 700, this year we have 738, and we had four people register today so the number is growing.”
Both the ninth- and 10th-grade classes are large this year, she added, but she said there will be sufficient capacity.
“Don’t worry, I am sure the new building will be able to accommodate this,” Galdston said.
See the enrollment report by clicking here.