Enrollment Up at All Levels in Watertown Schools, Especially at the High School

Enrollment is up at Watertown High School, despite moving into the temporary location at PFC Ricard Moxley Field. (Courtesy by City of Watertown)

Watertown’s schools are growing at all levels, and some classes at two elementary schools are near or at capacity, Superintendent Dede Galdston told the School Committee. The biggest growth, however, is at the secondary level. Typically, School officials wait until September to provide the first enrollment report to the School Committee, Galdston said, but she wanted to inform members before school started incase they receive questions about it. “Our enrollment is up,” Galdston said.

Watertown Schools See Influx of Students at Elementary, High School Levels

Charlie BreitroseThe new school building at Cunniff Elementary School, along with the new Hosmer School have seen an increase of enrollment this fall. Watertown High School has also grown. 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.

New Elementary Attendance Zones Approved by School Committee, Enrollment Rising

Watertown Public SchoolsThe Watertown elementary school attendance zone option approved by the School Committee. The buffer zones are shaded with diagonal lines. New boundaries for Watertown’s elementary school attendance areas have been approved, and include buffer zones that would allow families to choose between two schools. The School Committee approved the option recommended by Superintendent Dede Galdston on Monday night. The new areas will only impact students new to the district, not those already attending Cunniff, Lowell, or Hosmer elementary schools.

Grades at Some Watertown Schools Full; Students Face Heat in First Week

The school year has begun in Watertown, and preliminary enrollment figures put classes at the town’s elementary schools at or under the class size guidelines, but some are right at the limit. Superintendent Dede Galdston gave the enrollment figures to the School Committee last week, just days into the school year. The Watertown Public School’s class size guideline calls for classes of no more than 20 for kindergarten and first grade, 22 for second and third grades and 24 for fourth and fifth. As the opening of school approached, there were some grades which worried Galdston. “One area of concern, originally, was kindergarten numbers,” Galdston said.

School Committee Takes Lowell Site Out of Play for High School Spot, Approves Early Childhood Center

The Lowell Elementary School site will not be considered as a possible location for a new Watertown High School, and the School Committee endorsed the idea of building a central location for the district’s preschool and pre-kindergarten programs.

The vote came Monday night, a week after the board discussed those two items during a public meeting. The decisions needed to be made so architects hired by the district can begin planning the renovation or rebuilding of Watertown’s three elementary schools. Also Monday night, the School Committee approved a peak capacity for the elementary schools when the building project is complete. Lowell Site
Last week, architects from Ai3 gave a presentation about the possibility of using the Lowell site – including the playground area – for a new high school building. 

“Ai3 did a great job in its memo and it’s presentation to us explaining why the site would not work – the site itself, the size of the site and the slope,” said Town Council President and School Committee member Mark Sideris. Architects said the site would be smaller than recommended for a high school and the property slopes significantly, making it difficult to build a school without having many level changes.

District Opens New Central Registration Office & New Enrollment Procedure

The new centralized registration office for the Watertown Public Schools opened this week, and already had dozens of new students enrolling. 

In the past students and parents would go to the school to register, but the Central Registration Office was created in part to make sure that classes in Watertown’s elementary schools do not become overcrowded. Along with the new office, located in the Phillips Building, 30 Common St., the School Committee heard about the flow chart to decide where students will be placed. Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald said the goal is to keep classes between 18-20 students for Pre-K through first grade, 20-22 for grades 2 and 3 and 22-24 for fourth and fifth grades. The placements will be made by the Central Office Team and elementary school principals based on location, siblings and class size, said the District’s Data Manager Lauren Harwood. “The goal is to keep children in their neighborhood schools,” Harwood said.

LETTER: Commentary on Student Placement Decision Process

The Watertown Strong Schools parent group wrote up this summary of the recent School Committee Policy Subcommittee meeting, and added commentary at the end. Unofficial Minutes: Meeting of the Policy Subcommittee on 07/06/2016 – Key Points and Commentary

Note: These are NOT official minutes. Commentary can be found at the bottom of the minutes. Written by: David Stokes

Committee members: Dr. Guido Guidotti, Chair; Liz Yusem; Eileen Hsu-Balzer; Dr. Jean Fitzgerald, Superintendent. Audience members: Donna Ruseckas, Director of Wellness and Extended Services; John Portz, School Committee Chairperson; Lisa Feltner, Town Councilor; David Stokes, WSS; Stephanie Venizelos, Live Well Watertown and WPS Wellness Committee; Laurie McManus, former School Committee member; Charlie Breitrose, Watertown (MA) News; and one other community member.