HPS considers options to accommodate record turnout
It’s the most wonderful time of the year: back to school for students and teachers in the Hopkinton Public Schools!
Students from kindergarten through high school packed up their backpacks and boarded the buses last week to begin the 2019-20 school year. In preparation, Hopkinton Public School teachers reported Aug. 26 for two days of professional development and to get ready to greet their new students.
“It will be great to have the students back in the buildings,” superintendent Dr. Carol Cavanaugh said prior to the start of school. “The energy of the first few days back to school is unparalleled.”
That energy will be coming from close to 4,000 students across the district, a record number for HPS. Year over year increase was 196 students as of Aug. 20, much higher than the 103-student increase that was budgeted and surpassing the 186 new students that came to the district last year.
“We are nearing double [the number of new students] what we predicted,” Cavanaugh said.
With enrollment exploding over the past few years, district leaders have been looking at ways to accommodate the continuous increasing student population. Approval of $50,000 at Town Meeting has allowed the district to start the process of requisitioning a capacity study to look at each of the school buildings for potential expansion space.
Last year the district also submitted an application to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for a renovation or complete rebuild of the Elmwood Elementary School building. Although the number of districts that are selected each year for projects are low, Cavanaugh said that the MSBA will be visiting Elmwood in mid-September to look at the situation there.
“That is really good for us,” she said.
At the high school, the potential and cost of portable classrooms or an expansion of one of the wings at the back of the building will be investigated early this school year as well.
“When we get new students, we are not necessarily concerned with our ability to hire new teachers. What is really a concern for us is our physical space keeping pace with our enrollment,” Cavanaugh said.
But no matter how many students start the year at HPS, the district is ready for them with new leaders, programs and plans, according to Cavanaugh.
Of note, Jason Dimen is the new assistant principal at Elmwood and Rich Cormier has been hired as the new athletic director at the high school.
The 18 to 22 program has a new home — in the white house next to the middle school. Renovations still are in progress on the interior of the house that also serves as the headquarters for Buildings and Grounds, but Cavanaugh said the students and parents will be “pleasantly surprised” with the space, which now includes a kitchen and laundry facility.
A focus on curriculum changes and social emotional learning (SEL) round out the goals for each school as they head into the new year.
“We are focused on creating an academic and social culture that embraces culture and diversity,” Cavanaugh said.