State data suggests the school-age population in Southborough will decline over the coming decade, and that has school and town officials considering whether it makes sense to close one of Southborough’s four K-8 schools.
During a presentation to the Advisory Committee earlier this month, member Brian Shea said he analyzed the data and determined students could fit into three schools as early as 2013. Shea said he looked at things like septic capacity at the schools, along with space considerations.
Officials agree that if one school were to close, it would be Neary. In his analysis, Shea considered two main options for redistributing grade levels at the remaining schools. In both scenarios, Finn would house grades pre-Kindergarten through second grade. Woodward would have grades three through five in one scenario, and three and four in another, with Trottier housing either six through eight, or five through eight, respectively.
Shea said both realignment scenarios work from a space standpoint, but he acknowledged his analysis was limited to questions of capacity, and did not consider educational factors like the impact of having younger students in the same school as their older middle school peers. Shea said he also did not look at the impact on class size.
Superintendent Charles Gobron, who attended the Advisory Committee meeting, said those questions and more would be investigated by the new K-8 Housing Committee formed recently by the School Committee. The School Committee has looked into closing a school in the past, but Gobron said this analysis will be different because it will involve not only school officials, but also representatives from various town departments.
If Neary were to close, ownership of the building would transfer to the town. Gobron said one of the big issues is whether the town wants the building and what they would do with it.
“We’re getting all the stakeholders together,” Gobron said of the K-8 Housing Committee. “I hope to see a decision we’re all on board with.”
Gobron said he expects the Housing Committee to issue a report to the K-8 School Committee in time for the upcoming budget season, but said any changes the committee recommends are not likely to be implemented immediately.
“I don’t think there’s any talk of being able to (close a school) in 2013,” he said.
The K-8 Housing Committee meets for the first time tonight at 6:30 pm at Neary School. The meeting is open to the public. If you’d like to take a look at Shea’s school capacity analysis, I’ve posted it here (PDF).