An unanticipated spike in enrollment in the Hopkinton Public Schools for the upcoming school year has created a need for additional staff at several schools in the district.
With the projected enrollment for the first day of school of 3,586 students, Hopkinton is looking at an additional 114 students over the 3,472 students projected during the budget season.
Enrollment projections are made by the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) for school districts. Projections are made based on an analysis of a town’s birth rate, real estate turn-over rate, and new construction. In November of 2017, NESDEC had predicted an increase for the 2018/2019 school year of about 50 students; the actual enrollment is up by more than 150 students across the district. The projection was off by 114 students. The prior year, the projection was understated by 25 students.
Although enrollment projections in Hopkinton have been off by about 20-30 students for the past few years, this year’s spike took the district by surprise.
“This [the increase over projection] is much higher than it has been in past years,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol Cavanaugh during an Aug. 13 School Committee meeting.
The increase will be seen mostly at the elementary level, with an increase of over 60 students in Kindergarten and 16 in second grade.
“That is a lot of students to absorb,” commented School Committee Chair Nancy Cavanaugh.
With three weeks left to go before the first day of school, the district brought the request to hire additional staff to the School Committee to keep up with the “significantly higher than predicted” enrollment.
Four full time paraprofessionals will be hired for the Kindergarten at the Marathon School. Dr. Cavanaugh said that the originally planned 11 Kindergarten classrooms will now be 13 classrooms for this school year. An additional full-time teacher in the Middle School will alleviate the unanticipated increase in enrollment which were causing classroom sizes to be upwards of 25 students.
Another unknown which could affect staffing, said Dr. Cavanaugh, was the number of ELL (English Language Learner) students that would require support services. There are currently 153 ELL students receiving services, but there are an additional 220 students coming into the district this school year what will need to be screened. With approximately 25 percent of the students being screened needing ELL services, that number could go up to over 200 students.
“It is not unlikely that we will need additional staff to support those students this year,” said Dr. Cavanaugh.
As the district has seen these spikes in enrollment over the past few years, the question becomes how to plan during budget season.
“How do we plan ahead, instead of every month making changes,” said School Committee Vice Chair Meena Bharath. “How do we get to the place where we can plan into the future?”
Dr. Cavanaugh responded that they would be looking into ways to predict enrollment increases, including working with the Planning Board to review new construction plans which could mean additional students in the district.