School Building Capacity Under District Review

In light of reduced enrollment, Superintendent of Schools Nathan Greenberg provided the School Board with an update on room use and building capacity for the district’s schools.
Noting that room capacity relates to desired class size, Greenberg told the board at its Tuesday, Nov. 5 meeting that the district seeks Kindergarten classes averaging 18 students; 23 students in grades 1 through 5, grades 6 through 8 with an average class size of 25, and high school classes ranging from 18 to 24 students.

He noted that in middle and high school, some classes vary based on content.
“We’re looking at room utilization of between 85 percent to 90 percent,” he said.
Greenberg added that maintaining in-house low incident special education programs “has a cost avoidance this year of $7,500,000 and a cumulative 10-year cost savings through FY 15 of $52 million.
Greenberg said other district goals are to maintain technology-rich classrooms, a variety of course offerings at the high school, use of classroom space for art and music at the elementary levels, course options at the middle school, and space for resource rooms and small instructional groups.
“Those were predicating factors as we looked at utilization,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg said that because of the way programs are delivered today, the district no longer has the capacity to have 1,000 students at Matthew Thornton Elementary School, as had been done in the past.
“Our current enrollment at Moose Hill is 343, keeping in mind we have a morning session and an afternoon session,” he said. “Keeping it exactly the way we have it a present capacity would be 376, and a maximum capacity would be 488. The maximum capacity would reflect how we utilize all the rooms. Right now current enrollment at North School is 452, and present capacity would be 529, an additional 77 students, and maximum capacity is 598, which is an additional 146 students.”
South School’s current enrollment is 473, with a present capacity of 506. Its maximum capacity is 598. And Matthew Thornton enrollment stands at 578, with a present capacity of 621 and a maximum capacity of 690.
Greenberg said the Middle School has 67 rooms and could have a maximum capacity of 1,250 students. The high school could have a maximum capacity of 1,800 students.
“It is critically important to note that maximum capacity at each of the elementary schools is predicated on an even distribution of students,” he said. “For example, four classes at an elementary grade level with a class size of 23 would yield an enrollment of 92 students. If 10 students were to be added to that grade level, the total enrollment would be 102, yielding a class size of 25.5, thus requiring another teacher – class size would then be 20.4 students, reducing the total operating capacity of the school by 13 students. Capacity could also be impacted by the number of students requiring additional instruction, i.e. special education, reading, math, etc., thus necessitating the conversion of a classroom for small group instruction and reducing yet again the capacity of a given school.”
Greenberg said the maximum capacity number “floats depending on services and student needs.”
Based on current numbers, Greenberg said the elementary level could absorb an additional 153 students with its present room use configuration, and a total of an additional 383 students with major room reconfiguration. He emphasized depending on where elementary district growth occurs, capacity could be impacted and would require at least as a first step redistricting, and in the not-so-distant future an additional school or additions to one or more schools, and/or grade level reconfiguration.
He said Planning Department information indicates short-term significant growth predicted in the north end of town. The impact on North School is not known, but such growth has the possibility of significantly impacting that school. “Depending on the pace of enrollment and ages of the students arising from those developments, it could precipitate at least the contemplation of redistricting and/or room re-utilization,” Greenberg said.
“What we don’t know at this point is, based on what we’re hearing from some of the Realtors, there was a pent up housing stock as people held on to their houses, either because they were underwater on the mortgage or they lost a significant amount of equity,” he added. “As that is improving, my guess is that we’re going to be seeing people whose kids are now out of the house contemplating downsizing, and if it’s a three bedroom or four bedroom house, that would attract families with children.”

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