BURLINGTON – Student enrollment in the Burlington Public Schools remains on a pattern of growth in 2019, especially at the elementary level.
School Supt. Dr. Eric Conti recently disclosed the most updated student enrollment figures with the School Committee. A recurring theme of enrollment in Burlington is larger class sizes in the elementary school classrooms.
Dr. Conti started the dialogue by declaring enrollment is “relatively steady” but it continues to be “bottom-heavy” as the elementary classes are larger than they traditionally are. Fortunately for the district, Shawsheen Technical High School, in Billerica, continues to accept more students, resulting in steady enrollment figures as each class enters high school.
The class sizes at the elementary schools are continually in the three-hundreds, on average, which has been a consistent red flag facing school officials for the past five years.
Dr. Conti pointed out the 3rd class at Francis Wyman Elementary School, 3rd grade class at Fox Hill Elementary School, and 2nd grade class at Pine Glen Elementary School are expected to experience average class sizes of 20-21 students (18 students per class is ideal).
“These numbers are no surprise,” Dr. Conti told the committee. “Class sizes are a function of the number of teachers, but also the number of classrooms we have, and we are maxed out in terms of the number of classrooms we have available.”
This elementary school problem is precisely why the School Committee has an “Elementary School Building Needs – Discussion” topic as a recurring agenda item. With elementary enrollment most problematic at the Fox Hill and Pine Glen Elementary Schools, a hypothetical proposal has been discussed to raze Fox Hill and build a larger elementary school, similar to Memorial Elementary School, to handle the increased capacity. As for Pine Glen, the school would remain as is, but would undergo the necessary renovations to keep it operational. Fox Hill currently has modular classrooms on-site, so the capacity issues have already had an immediate impact on their class space.
Though school officials are far from coming up with a resolution to the problem, they are well aware of the daunting task facing them in regards to capacity in the district’s elementary schools.
“If enrollment increases, like we expect it to, we are going to need more teachers and/or classrooms, or class sizes will continue to spike,” advised Dr. Conti. “As we continue to see growth, we will continue to see pressure at the elementary schools.”
The student enrollment update topic is directly tied to the recurring elementary school building needs discussion item on the School Committee’s agenda, so expect updates on these matters at every upcoming committee meeting.