According to the Concord Monitor, fluctuations in school enrollment–often even as little as 1% annually–are creating logistical challenges, from classroom space to staffing needs:
Continuing a multi-year trend, the total number of students enrolled at public schools in the region declined again this year, although certain districts – mostly affluent – are seeing a sustained bump in enrollment.
Across 10 capital area districts, the number of students in public schools has dropped below 20,000, with about 830 fewer students than five years ago, for an overall decline of about 6 percent. Some schools are declining faster than others, and a few have even grown a little since 2012.
With 1,843 K-12 students this fall, SAU 67 – which includes Bow and Dunbarton – has seen its enrollment tick upwards every year since 2013, when the total headcount stood at 1,578. Between this year and last, the total number of students went up by 38, according to the Monitor’s count…
The growth is creating some logistical issues for the district. This year, Dunbarton will put a warrant on the ballot to add three classrooms at the elementary school, where overcrowding led the district to revert back to a half-day kindergarten program. And in Bow, a renovation project for the elementary school that’s slated for the ballot next year might also include an expansion if the growth doesn’t level off.
“There definitely is not extra room in the schools right now,” Cascadden said…
Hopkinton, too, is on the rise. Enrollment has ticked upward every year since 2014 – when the district counted 847 students – with the headcount now at 942.
Superintendent Steve Chamberlin said the district is noticing significant in-migration in the younger grades. While most of the district’s schools still have room for extra students, the Harold Martin School, which serves students from preschool to grade 3, is basically at capacity.
Chamberlin speculated full-day kindergarten could be a draw, but said the district has also defined itself through its small classes.
“If you really believe in small schools, in personalization and that intimacy, Hopkinton’s that option right now,” he said.
Real-estate agents in the area say buyers often seek Bow and Hopkinton out specifically for their education systems. With high test scores and graduation rates, the two towns’ schools frequently top the U.S. News and World Report’s rankings in New Hampshire. And with interest rates low, there’s been more movement in the market.
“Those two communities are definitely magnet communities for education. Their reputations are really great,” said Stephen Marder, a capital-area realtor with the Masiello Group.
Steve DeStefano, a real-estate agent with Century 21 that does business in Bow and Concord, said he’s noticed a trend of families moving from the Catholic school system in the Manchester area into Bow. Despite the town’s higher property taxes, families are calculating they can still save when they stop paying tuition at a private school.
“It’s a matter of numbers,” he said.
Both said people seem to be coming in from elsewhere in the state, but also outside.
“Last ones that I had move in to Bow were from New Jersey. And before that was South Carolina,” Marder said.
Elsewhere in the region, districts are either seeing a slow trickle – or a precipitous decline.
Concord continues to lose a little more than one percent of its students each year. It went from 4,737 students in 2012 to 4,463 this fall, a six-percent decrease over five years. It lost about 1.6 percent of its students between this year and last.
“As always, it means we’ll be taking a look at our staffing needs,” said Superintendent Terri Forsten.