Post image for School enrollments: Remote vs Hybrid; Town to revisit projections vs building capacity

Above: The majority of NSBORO families opted for the learning model that targets getting kids into classrooms this fall. (graphs based on data from district)

The Board of Selectmen is authorizing an official look at whether the Town should consider closing a Southborough K-8 school in coming years. (More on that below.)

That look will feature a long term view of enrollment vs capacity. Of course these days, excess building capacity is a boon as school districts try to maximize safe distances between students. So the topic prompted me to wonder how enrollment shook out this year as parents grappled with hard choices.

I reached out to Superintendent Gregory Martineau for a breakdown of remote vs hybrid students, plus figures for drop-off over the summer.

Remote vs Hybrid

Across the board, the large majority of families signed kids up for the Hybrid Model with the planned, phased, in-person attendance. According to Martineau only 18% of Southborough families selected the Stand Alone Remote Program for the launch of the school year.

It appears that the percentage of families who opted for SARP varied by school level.  The percent enrolled in SARP (vs Hybrid) are:

  • 20% of Southborough Elementary (K-5)
  • 11% of Trottier Middle School (6-8)
  • 5.9% of Algonquin Regional High School (that’s Northborough and Southborough combined)

So, how many made a third choice – leaving the district? 

In June, the K-8 schools were predicting 1,163 students to be enrolled in Southborough K-8 this September. The actual current figure is 1,179. K-12 student enrollments dropped by 10 over the summer, from the projected 1,407 to 1,397. 

The differences don’t seem too large and I can’t tell you how many moved vs. went to a private school or other institution or chose to pursue home schooling. But Martineau acknowledged it was higher than last year’s summer drop off.*

But what about overall trends?

Enrollment vs Capacity

Back in 2012, resident Al Hamilton publicly called for closing Woodward School. He cited enrollment projections that indicated a large drop in student enrollments by 2020. Based on the trends, he pitched converting Woodward for other municipal purposes and selling three other Town owned buildings. One of those three has been sold off – Fayville Hall. But the Town is still using the other two the South Union School (which he called a “money pit”) and Cordaville Hall (home of the Senior Center).

The idea didn’t pass muster with the School Committee back then. Now, eight years later, the Town is revisiting the concept of reducing the number of school buildings. This time, Town officials will partner with the school committee in the assessment.

It turns out, the 2012 enrollment projections were significantly off. Hamilton had shared that the student population was expected to drop by 35-40%. Enrollment did drop significantly, but only by 17% from figures shown for the 2011-12 school year.

Still, according to Hamilton’s assessment, we were already overdue for downsizing years ago. In his presentation, when enrollment was higher than it is now, he wrote:

  • We should already be in a 3 school system
    • We operated quality school system in a 3 school footprint with more students than we have now in the early 2000’s
    • Our 3 school (excluding Woodard) classroom capacity is greater than it was in early 2000’s due to the Trottier addition
  • The big question is not 3 vs 4 but 2 vs 3 schools.

In meetings this year, the Advisory Committee and Capital Planning Committee have discussed assessing the possibility as an important step in long term fiscal planning.

Recently, the Capital Planning Committee urged the Board of Selectmen to looking into the possibility of disposing of the South Union Building. Not coincidentally, Selectmen are scheduled to approve a charge for a new ad-hoc subcommittee to research school capacity vs student projections.  [click to keep reading…]


Post image for Children of Promise Gala: A Night In, Supporting Autism

Above: The 5th annual fundraiser for The New England Center for Children will be held differently this fall. (images cropped from Gala website)

Another annual fundraiser is going virtual this fall. Rather than cancelling its Children of Promise Gala, The New England Center for Children is promoting it as an at home program.

Children of Promise Gala promotionThe fundraiser is “to support research and education to help thousands of children with autism throughout New England and the world.” 

As most readers should know, the autism institute is headquartered in Southborough with residential and day school students. You may not be aware of it’s global reach. To learn more about that (and recent news on that front), scroll down.

As for the gala, the 5th annual event will take place on Friday November 20. It’s pitched as an at home program, fundraiser, and auction to benefit children with autism and celebrate NECC.

Beginning at 6:45 pm, registered guests can tune in to a brief pre-show followed by an “uplifting” program at 7:00 pm. Registration for the event is free, though they will be looking for bids on auction items and encouraging donations:

The staff and students at The New England Center for Children continue to thrive and move forward during these challenging times. A donation to NECC helps to support crucial resources including technology, physical adaptive equipment, personal protective equipment, community enrichment, research and much more!

You can find participation details here.

Gala sponsorsLeading up to the gala, NECC is still welcoming more sponsors to join those already supporting the evening. (Learn more here.)

What NECC means by helping “children around the world”:

NECC boasts of consultation services to more than 70 schools, and educational programs for individual students around the world including in Bermuda, London, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Dubai and India. The institute also has a second day school, located in Abu Dhabi. This month, they finalized an agreement to expand that school and add 77 new students, bringing the total to close to 300 students at that facility.

More than 4,600 students at NECC and in public school districts and agencies around the world currently use a specialized software developed at NECC, the Autism Curriculum Encyclopedia.


Post image for School Update: How Professional Development days were used

This summer, the NSBORO district took advantage of an offer by the state to substitute the first ten school days with Professional Development Days for teachers. Last night, the Combined School Committees learned how those days were used.

Assistant Superintendent Stefanie Reinhorn headed the initiative. She assured that a recurring theme was getting students to play active roles in their learning. That will also be part of ongoing work. (More PD days are coming up this fall.)*

Reinhorn showed examples of the teachers’ agendas for each day. Schedules included school based sessions and time spent in collaboration. Collaboration was within and across schools, disciplines, roles, and districts. Ongoing collaboration time is also built into their schedules this year.

Naturally, there was significant time was dedicated to use of technology. That included making sure everyone had the necessary skills for the school platforms and was on the same page as to how to use them. Outside speakers included an educational tech consultant. His advice included how to use the tools to make students active participants.

The other expert brought in was a child psychologist who regularly works with the district. That tied into the topic of Social-Emotional Wellness of teachers and students.

Other key topics were Health & Safety Protocols, Operational Procedures, and “Culturally Responsive Pedagogy”. That last one was explained by the District’s Director of English Learners and Equity. Rhoda Webb said one focus of those sessions was the difference between caring “for” and “about” a student. She expounded, 

When you truly care for a student you deeply know a student’s story, and you deeply uplift a student’s identity and culture and background.

PD schedules included time for self-directed learning. The district provided resources including webinars for teachers to explore. But they also allowed teachers to select their own options to pursue their own interests and needs.

Schedules also incorporated time for individual planning and to reflect. Reinhorn called it “Metacognition” time, using a John Dewey quote to explain: 

We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.

Each day, teachers completed surveys. The differing questions gave administrators important feedback. But they also included “prompts”. Reinhorn said that she wanted faculty to step back, stop, think, set goals and take stock.  [click to keep reading…]


On the market this week in Southborough

by beth on September 17, 2020

Post image for On the market this week in Southborough

Above: This home at 3 Watkins Lane went on the market this week for $1,199,900 (MLS photo)

Here’s what went on and off the market this week. Thanks to Gail DuBois (email) of Keller Williams for supplying the town’s new listing information for the week.*

New on the market

Sale pending

  • 12A Pine Hill Road (map) – 1.01 Residential acres (43,778 SqFt) – 987 days on the Market, Listed at $250,000
  • 166 Southville, Unit A (map) – 8 room, 2 bed, 1f 0h bath HalfDuplex, Duplex – 19 days on the Market, Listed at $419,000
  • 8 Latisquama Road (map) – 8 room, 4 bed, 2f 1h bath Colonial, Victorian, Antique – 28 days on the Market, Listed at $524,900
  • 21 Wildwood Drive (map) – 7 room, 3 bed, 2f 0h bath Contemporary – 5 days on the Market, Listed at $539,000
  • 12 Maplecrest Drive (map) – 8 room, 4 bed, 1f 1h bath Colonial, Garrison – 19 days on the Market, Listed at $585,000
  • 12 Thayer Lane (map) – 8 room, 4 bed, 2f 2h bath Colonial – 150 days on the Market, Listed at $710,000
  • 33 Overlook Drive (map) – 8 room, 4 bed, 3f 1h bath Colonial – 23 days on the Market, Listed at $799,900
  • 12 Graystone Way (map) – 12 room, 4 bed, 2f 1h bath Contemporary – 33 days on the Market, Listed at $1,200,000
  • 6 Metcalf Lane (map) – 12 room, 4 bed, 4f 1h bath Colonial, Craftsman – 46 days on the Market, Listed at $1,585,000

[click to keep reading…]


Post image for Historical Society looking for tree lovers: Apply to own a historic apple tree, sponsor new elms at the museum

If you’re a tree hugger, you may want to note a recent announcement from the Southborough Historical Society.

The biggest news was the opening of the process to purchase a historic Lyscom apple tree sapling. They are also looking for sponsors to help them plant shade trees outside of the Southborough Historical Museum.

Lyscom tree on the Town property at Common Street (photo by Beth Melo)Lyscom trees

Many of you may be wondering what’s so special about a Lyscom apple tree. As SHS announced four years ago, the saplings are living pieces of Southborough history. Back then, SHS President Michael Weishan described a tree in the museum and Town House parking lot as the “Oldest Living Thing in Southborough”.

The apple tree planted in the 70s was grafted from an apple tree planted in Southborough 300 years ago by Samuel Lyscom. Lyscom was one of the Town’s founders. (You can read more background on the original tree and the man here.)

apple image from SHS websiteSHS has been working with the Department of Public Works to propagate more of the trees in town. Their hope is to have bushels of Lyscom apples ready in time to use in the celebration of Southborough’s tricentennial in 1727. (Curious about the Lyscom variety’s flavor and texture? I found an apple blog “Adam’s Apple” that wrote about it here.)

There are only ten Lyscom saplings being made available for private ownership. The “adoption fee” is $250 to support SHS. But, given past issues, there is more to being accepted as an owner than writing a check.

In his missive earlier this month, Weishan explained:

Thanks to the DPW’s Karen Galligan, 15 whips were grafted three years ago from the sole remaining Lyscom apple tree at the museum, (Southborough’s own native apple, and the oldest living tree in town) . The young saplings are now 3-4′ tall and branched. We received 15 bareroot trees this spring , and they have been carefully potted up, watered and staked, and ten of them are now ready for their “forever home.” (Three will be planted at the museum, and 2 somewhere else on Town property.)

Now truth be told, this experiment was repeated 40 years ago, and of the 30 trees distributed across town, none are left, principally because they were planted in poor locations, or in areas subject to development. To avoid a similar fate, we are seeking potential candidates who have a spot in a developed neighborhood well away from the house (to avoid death by renovation); in full sun (8 or more hours of sun a day), and well away from other competing trees. Candidates must agree to protect the young trees from mice and winter damage with a bark protector, and keep the young sapling watered for the first two seasons. If all goes well, the first apples will appear in a year or two’s time. If you meet these criteria, we would love to share with you this fascinating bit of Southborough history.

Weishan also shared that SHS is seeking sponsors for more elm trees in the “quadrangle” in front of the museum. 

It appears that the Town House isn’t the only municipal properties that had flagpole issues this summer. The SHS president wrote:  [click to keep reading…]

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A peek at first week of NSBORO Pre-K

by beth on September 17, 2020

Post image for A peek at first week of NSBORO Pre-K

Yesterday, Finn School launched in-person classes for the district’s preschool students. (They also announced openings in the program for this fall.) This morning, the school shared some great photos from yesterday and today.

Here are some highlights cropped from contributed photos:

drop off    


Next Tuesday, Finn will be one of the three Southborough schools to welcome back elementary students on a hybrid schedule.


Outdoor fun at the Library for little ones: Yoga and Story Times with crafts

September 17, 2020 09:35:13 AM
Thumbnail image for Outdoor fun at the Library for little ones: Yoga and Story Times with crafts

Preschoolers and families are being invited to come back to the Southborough Library for some fun. Two outdoors series will be held on the Library’s lawn.

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Recreation announces no Heritage Day to be held this fall

September 16, 2020 08:36:17 PM
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Southborough has cancelled Heritage Day.

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Virtual Arts & Crafts: Rainbows, Spooky Puppets, Haunted Gingerbread Houses, and a painting party

September 16, 2020 05:02:08 PM
Thumbnail image for Virtual Arts & Crafts: Rainbows, Spooky Puppets, Haunted Gingerbread Houses, and a painting party

The Southborough Library has added to its fall schedule of arts and crafts workshops for teens and tweens.

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Support for and from schools: Teachers, SOS, and NECC volunteers doing good (Updated)

September 16, 2020 01:53:53 PM
Thumbnail image for Support for and from schools: Teachers, SOS, and NECC volunteers doing good (Updated)

With many families and teachers likely stressed about the strange new school year, I thought I’d share some happy stories. Each relates to schools in town, though one isn’t part of the public school district.

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Election Update: Early Ballots expected in October

September 16, 2020 11:08:35 AM
Thumbnail image for Election Update: Early Ballots expected in October

It sounds like the Town Clerk’s office has been getting a number of inquiries from anxious and/or aggravated voters. A message issued on Friday explains what’s going on with mail-in voting this fall.

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NSBORO PreK has openings this fall – Apply now

September 16, 2020 09:32:12 AM
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The district has announced its upcoming integrated preschool screening for the next school year will take place on January 10, 2020.

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Conservation denied Park Central application

September 15, 2020 12:51:27 PM
Thumbnail image for Conservation denied Park Central application

Last Thursday, the Conservation Commission voted to deny Park Central’s Notice of Intent.

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RAP registration closes tomorrow for in-person and remote classes

September 15, 2020 11:39:32 AM
Thumbnail image for RAP registration closes tomorrow for in-person and remote classes

The Town is about to close registration for both in-person and remote Recreation After School Program classes for K-5 students this fall.

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