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School Committee keeps close eye on enrollment surge

by | Sep 18, 2019 | Education

District embarks on plan to expand high school

The Hopkinton School Committee received updates and voted on several housekeeping items during its first meeting of the new school year.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol Cavanaugh and Director of Finance Susan Rothermich presented the status report to the committee members on items including enrollment numbers, special education, requests for additional staff, and even an update on the first day of school.

“We had a great start to the school year,” Cavanaugh said during the Sept. 5 meeting. “It was seamless.”

Cavanaugh spoke about the message that she shared with the teachers when they reported back to school on Aug. 26, a message about the importance of growth, not just achievement.

“We do have that reputation for being top-tier schools, but what does that mean for all of our learners?” she said. “We really should define excellence as, ‘Better today than yesterday, and better this year than last year.’ ”

As of the date of the meeting, said Cavanaugh, there were 247 additional students enrolled in the district over last year, with seven students enrolling in the previous three days alone. That number is more than double what was budgeted based on NESDEC predictions and already surpassed the 186 new students who were welcomed to the district last year.

“It’s striking when you look at the percentage of our entire enrollment and how much of it has come in in the past two years — it’s more than 10 percent,” commented School Committee vice chair Nancy Richards-Cavanaugh.

The increase caused a request for four new paraprofessional positions for Elmwood and Hopkins elementary schools. Due to the increase in enrollment, classroom sizes are up to 25 students in some of the grade levels.

“I don’t think any teacher at Elmwood wouldn’t be able to handle the additional students, but the additional support would be wonderful,” said Elmwood principal Ann Carver.

The School Committee unanimously approved the hiring of four new paraprofessionals.

Regarding the special education program in Hopkinton, Cavanaugh told the committee that she received a report from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that stated the district’s review of student safety and discipline data from the past three years showed “no identified significant disproportionality” by race or ethnicity in special education identification, placement or discipline.

“That is considered a clean bill of health,” Cavanaugh noted.

Cavanaugh and Rothermich asked that the committee approve the district’s request from the town $350,000 to begin an engineering study of Hopkinton High School in order to move forward with building six additional classrooms.

“We would really like to get this process started and plan for a June 2020 construction as opposed to a June 2021 construction,” Rothermich said.

The total cost for the project is preliminarily estimated at $3.5 million. The $350,000 will cover the design, engineering and architectural plans so the total project can be bid out in time for Town Meeting in the spring.

Finally, the committee was asked to vote to approve for Rothermich to represent Hopkinton Public Schools as the district enters into negotiations with Gale and Associates to design and engineer a partial roof replacement at Hopkins School, not to exceed the $100,000 that was approved at the Town Meeting in May. The School Committee voted unanimously to approve.

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