School Board Told to Expect Big Boost in Enrollment

Using a spreadsheet and map provided by Geographic Information Systems Manager and Planner Jon Vogl, School District Business Administrator Peter Curro outlined for the School Board the future growth anticipated for the town, based on a projection of residential projects that would be “substantially” completed in three to five years.
The projections anticipate a large number of children for the district to educate.
“What we have is a projection that gives us an idea what we can be looking at for housing units and what those units could translate into as far as students,” Curro said. “What you see in about three to five years with just new developments is about 500 new kids coming in.”

Curro said that does not include “empty nesters, and as they move, we assume that families that buy the houses are bringing kids in.
“We are nervous that there could be a double wave of students coming in, from the large developments and from the activity of empty nesters selling and moving on and families with kids moving in,” Curro said.
Curro said he has a second concern relating to the north and northeast sections of town, where the major developments are. Three developments are going in at that location – some that have begun, others approved and in the early stages of development. He cited Mill Pond Brook Hollow with 100 units planned; Lorden Commons, with 133 units and Wallace Farm, with 240 units, 50 percent of which will be workforce housing, for a total in the that area of 473 units.
The map Curro used showed the school district’s three elementary zones. North is the largest district, and covers roughly from west of High Range Road to north of Wiley Hill Road to Stonehenge Road, and across to the east of Interstate 93 down to Pillsbury Road. Matthew Thornton takes in from Stonehenge to the north to Nashua Road (Route 102) to the south. South covers everything south of Nashua Road.
“What you don’t see is year six, when we believe Woodmont Commons will kick in, creating a high number of students,” Curro said.
According to Vogl’s map, 300 additional single-family homes and 200 apartments can be expected, creating 500 units in four years at the 600-plus-acre Woodmont Commons.
Curro said in addition to alerting the board, discussions on the matter are ongoing with Assistant Superintendent of Schools Andy Corey, Human Resources Director Suzie Swenson and Superintendent Nathan Greenberg, along with the principals of the three elementary schools.
“There’s more ways to fix this problem than we could dream of but you have to start someplace, so we’re getting the ball rolling here tonight,” Curro said.
The age of the new students will also play a part.
“We could get a mix of students of different ages going to different grades,” Curro said. “We could get 60 kids at North School spread through all different grades or we could get 60 students all coming into the fourth grade.”
Board member John Robinson asked about impact fees for the developments and Curro said that currently impact fees remain suspended, although the town is looking at a reconfigured impact fee ordinance.
Board member Leitha Reilly asked about the possibility of redistricting.
“Of the whole series of ‘what if’ scenarios, one thing I didn’t hear was the possibility of redistricting. Is that ever a possibility?” Reilly said.
Curro said it was and noted other considerations as well, such as additions or a new building.
“You could move grade six back to the elementary school, or move fifth grade into middle school – those are all scenarios and possibilities that we look at,” Curro said.
Board member Steve Young said the student multiplier, the formula by which the district predicts how many children will be in the school based on homes and occupants, needs to be considered.
“If we build 700 homes, there could be three students in every home, so that would indicate 2,300 students,” Young said. “The student multiplier that is assigned with three to four bedrooms is .7, with three bedrooms is .6, and with garden-style apartments is .3. What’s interesting is that Wallace Farm, which is near I-93 at exit 5, is very similar to Vista Ridge, and at Vista Ridge as I understand it, it is about .12 children. These numbers may in fact be lower, although I’m pleased that you’re predicting what you are so we can be prepared for it.”
Young noted that building a two-bedroom house does not mean two children will live there.
“What we started to see lately is at the price points houses are now, we are starting to get elementary age students, so if I were to take a guess, my guess would be that close to a majority of students that will be coming out of these units would probably be at the elementary level, more so than at the high school level,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg also said the morning and afternoon session split at Moose Hill Kindergarten runs down Pillsbury Road. “Right now we have more p.m. kids than a.m. kids, so if you look at where the big developments are, they’re at the north end of town,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg said that in the next year or two, depending on how they see the population increasing, the district may have to adjust Kindergarten, “so we don’t have an overloaded p.m. compared to a.m.”
He added that classes may have to be creative with room assignments and use of space.
Robinson asked what budgetary impact they were anticipating for next year, and Curro said there will probably be a bus for the Mill Pond area.
Greenberg noted that 80 percent of the district budget is salaries and benefits, and added that in a couple of years, the board may have to look at deciding whether to put a down payment on a parcel of land to get first refusal rights.
“Busing will be an issue that we’ll have to bring up,” he said. “Even if we don’t get a lot of kids on the north end, the extended time on the bus routes could be significant.”
Greenberg said that as it stands they were going to go with current staffing, but he wanted to “bank” two positions.
Young said that between the downshifting by the state and the residential growth the town will be seeing in the next three to five years, more industrial and commercial revenue and growth were needed.

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