I have a hodge podge of school news items to share.
First up are several updates from last week’s School Committee meeting. They are followed by regional school news from other sources:
Free Kindergarten still being explored
At last week’s Southborough School Committee Meeting, Superintendent Christine Johnson said the administration is “moving forward with [their] Feasibility Study” looking at expanding free kindergarten from half day to full day. A representative from the Town will be part of the discussions.
Johnson told the committee that over the course of the year, more students moved into the schools then out. As of last week, K-8 was up by 13 students from the year’s start.
Principal James Randall projected kindergarten enrollment at 125-130 based for Septemeber. He said calls keep coming in (and generally do over the summer.) Last year, the incoming Kindergarten class was 119.
Cable/Media at Trottier
Southborough Access Media will be relocating to Trottier Middle School next year.
It’s news the school, committee and SAM are all excited about. SAM’s board Chair Warren Palley said it was important to them to be located in a school. With streaming content such a big part of what they do, they wanted an education component for kids to get involved.
School Committee member Marybeth Strickland was looking forward to both the showcasing of what the school can do and the learning aspect.
Johnson emphasized that what kids will begin to learn at an earlier age they can continue with in high school since Algonquin hosts Northborough Cable.
[Speaking of Northborough Cable – I have a confession. I’ve been relying on recording their live video feeds to cover our Combined and Regional committee meetings. Unfortunately, they had technical difficulties on Wednesday night. So, I won’t be able to see the meetings until sometime next week.
Fortunately, local media and the school paper have provided some information to share until then.]
Common Core forum
Reminder, there’s a public forum on the Common Core sponsored by the Common Core Forum this Saturday, 10:30 am at the Northborough Library. Click here for details. (At this point, I’ve received no news on additional speakers. So the pro/con forum still looks like it’s leaning con.)
At the Southborough School Committee meeting, Chair Paul Desmond addressed a petition read during Audience Sharing asking the members to agree to attend that forum if their schedules allowed. Desmond said that the Common Core would be addressed as part of this week’s Combined school committee meeting update on curriculum. (Unfortunately, as I posted above, I won’t see that conversation until next week. If anyone has an update to share, feel free to add a comment.)
Algonquin still exploring schedule changes
As of June 16th, the Harbinger reported that teachers were still considering schedule changes for the school:
Modifications to Algonquin’s 2015-2016 school year schedule are halfway through consideration as a round of voting within administration effectively lowered the number of proposed schedules from 12 to six. (read more)
Partial reversal to cuts in regional busing reimbursement increase
(As confusing as it sounds.)
Metrowest Daily News reports that a state budget cut reversal will help Algonquin’s budget:
An infusion of cash from the state will help ease budget strains for 85 regional school districts in Massachusetts.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced Thursday that he will shift $5 million from the state’s operating budget into a fund to reimburse regional school districts for transportation costs.
The money will help offset an $18 million cut enacted by his predecessor, Gov. Deval Patrick, in November to help close a mid-year budget gap. . .
Algonquin Regional High School Superintendent Christine Johnson said the funding will help ease budget pressures for regional schools.
“We’ve been hopeful that this was going to take place and we’re glad that they re-instituted the money that they had committed to,” she said. (read more)
Planned regional busing reimbursements have been wildly fluctuating over the year.
In September, the school was pleased that the Governor increased reimbursements to 90%. Later the increase was cut to a level budget from the previous year.
So, while the cut reversal is only a partial one, it appears to be an increase over the previous year, and up from the level that was included in the final budget approved for Algonquin this spring.
On the other hand, as was pointed out in a Regional School Committee meeting last year, it falls short on a promise made by the state long-ago. Back when the state pushed towns to regionalize, they promised 100% reimbursement for busing. Asking for reversal of cuts made over the years was part of the committee’s legislative agenda.
*Updated (6/20/15 9:30 am): Reader pointed out that earlier subhead saying enrollment “up” made it sound like K-8 next year would be bigger than K-8 next year. But the biggest K-8 class is the outgoing 8th graders.
It would be really nice if our K-8 School Committee chose to not “play us” for once. Yes, our Kindergarten classes are rising slowly on the order of the 125-130 suggested. But, we are graduating an 8th grade class of 181.
Somewhere the basic math is not being done. Add 130 and subtract 181 and you still get declining enrollment. Unless there is some special math that I am unaware of.
The claim that our school enrollment is rising is clearly a false. Just look at the data.
Neither the school committee or superintendent said enrollment is increasing – or anything that played with words. The subhead was my summarization of the topic. I see now that it looks like they were saying that next year is up over last. Didn’t intend for that.
Johnson pointed out an enrollment increase from the start of year to end of year from people moving in.
And answering a question that always comes up about Kindergarten, Randall gave his projection for this September. I looked back to find out what the figure was on incoming Kindergarten class from last September’s meeting.
In past years, he’s pointed out to the School Committee that the kindergarten class generally gets bigger when it moves to first grade. Some people put their kids in a private kindergarten, then place them in public school for first grade.
Yes, our school officials talk about rising Kindergarten enrollment vs the last few years. But they never talk about the large declines in total enrollment.
The facts are that our K-8 enrollment peaked a decade ago at 1631
It currently stands at 1336
That is down nearly 300 students or roughly 15 classrooms of students.
Next year our total enrollment will fall by about another 50 students as we graduate 181 students and replace them with 125-130 Kindergartners. That is another 2-3 classrooms.
Beyond that for the next 5 years we will be graduating classes that average about 153 students. If we replace them with incoming Kindergarten classes of 130 we will still see enrollments fall on the order of 20 students per year.
The data is available for all to see. Over the next 6 years we are on track to operate a K-8 system that will have fewer than 1200 students.
We owe each of these students a high quality education. To do so we need to make effective use of the resources the community has provided so that we can focus on teaching and teachers not empty building.
The trend is clear and has been for years. Don’t expect, however, that our K-8 officials will discuss this with the community. It is easier to ask for more money than to spend it effectively. Hard decisions must be avoided at all costs.
+1 I could not agree more Al. I also read Johnson’s comment the same way you did.
But then where will all the kids from the 40b projects go? Are there population estimates for this project that go beyond traffic studies? The town has to plan for ebb and flow of the population and maybe keeping an extra building around is the safest way to do it. But if it can be repurposed during declining years then there ought to be a plan to make it more flexible for a variety of uses.
What other factors contribute to a decline?
Seniors living longer and displacing families with kids
Smaller families, larger houses
Developers building what is most profitable for themselves
NECC 10 Million expansion mowing down houses in Fayville (but it’s along RT 9 so who cares right?)
Not sure where we can go given our constant need to expand, spend, and forget. It isn’t sustainable but we don’t know any other way to live.
I spoke to the town planner a number of years ago about the school population impact of multi family residences being build. At the time she said that it was not a big issue. The number of school aged children per unit was much smaller than single family homes, particularly new single family homes.
I do agree with you that if we were to move to a 3 school format the excess building could probably be used for municipal uses but nothing should be done to the building that could not be easily undone in case we need a school building in the future.
We have a desperate need to rationalize our public infrastructure so we can focus our scarce resources on service providers not empty buildings. The key to this has always been answering the question “Do we have more school buildings than we need to accommodate the student we are likely to have in the foreseeable future”
But, it is easier to just ask for more money than to ask these questions.