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Lynnfield seeks solutions to rising elementary school enrollment

LYNNFIELD — School enrollment in Lynnfield is expected to rise over the next five years and officials are planning ahead. 

Superintendent Jane Tremblay said while there’s enough room for everyone in September, the town must be prepared, for the student population is slated to increase by nearly 11 percent by 2023.

“The options are: do nothing, or if we need more room and how do we achieve that?” she said. 

Student growth in the elementary schools will not happen overnight.  Next year, enrollment is expected to rise by 3.2 percent, 3.7 percent the following year, less than 1 percent in 2022, and 2.5 percent in 2023. 

The School Department posted a message on its Facebook page telling residents the district is seeking an architect to conduct a feasibility study at both elementary schools for the possible expansion. In addition, Robert Dolan, town administrator said the Strategic Planning Committee is preparing a Request for Proposal for the possible purchase of portable classrooms.

The options include giving up the art rooms and having it taught in regular classrooms, installing modulars, and making additions to the Summer Street and Huckleberry Hill elementary schools where it’s getting crowded.

Ellen Crawford, an agent with William Raveis R.E. & Home Services, said many of the buyers in Lynnfield are young couples with young children living in a condominium in the city.

“They want a community with great schools, convenient shopping, but still be close to Boston,” she said. “MarketStreet has been a draw with shopping and eating options, including a Whole Foods.”

Lynnfield’s projected rise in school population bucks a statewide trend, according to a Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) survey.

The regional planning agency found enrollment has declined in 159 out of 234 school districts over the last six years. Also, 43 out of 51 regional districts saw enrollment drop during the same period. 

Nor were they modest declines. In Greater Boston, districts with declining enrollment saw drops of 8 percent, and more than a dozen districts saw decreases of 11 percent or more. 

Meanwhile, growing districts saw fairly sizable growth,  an average of 7 percent and a dozen local districts grew by more than 10 percent, adding an average of 826 students per district, the MAPC survey said.

Lynnfield is nowhere near that in terms of numbers of students. If the projections are correct, Lynnfield will add about 100 students by the 2023-2024 compared to this year.

Tremblay, who has been on the job since 2014, said she’s faced tight space issues in the past. 

“The School Committee needs to make decisions about which way to go,” she said. “The ideal solution is to keep class sizes small and continue to offer our elementary school students the high quality education we’ve always been able to give them.”

When pressed about which solution she favors, Tremblay said while new additions to the two schools would be ideal, she has always been as conservative as possible.

“It’s like your personal finances,” she said. “I would love to go to Europe every year, but if I do that what happens when my oil burner breaks. It’s the difference between want and need.”

While Tremblay said she is opposed to having art teachers instruct from a cart, or more than 21 children in a classroom, there are times to tighten your belt. 

The need for more elementary school space comes as the town’s 

Strategic Planning Committee is considering a new public safety facility building.

While it is very early in the process, the five-member panel has authorized a feasibility study to examine what, if anything, should be done to improve the police and fire station headquarters. 

In addition, Lynnfield has taken several steps toward construction of a $21 million library.

“The schools have always prevailed in Lynnfield 100 percent and that’s because we are not greedy, we take what we need and not what we want,” she said. 

Tremblay has no intention of telling residents to forgo a library or a public safety headquarters in favor of school construction, she said.

“We need the public safety building and it would be great to have a new library, and it’s important to be a team player,” she said. “I don’t plan to stomp my feet until I get what I want. The community needs to set priorities and decide.”

Still, Tremblay said that could change. 

“If we got to the point where 100 new kids move into the Summer Street Elementary School and I’ll have 40 kids per classroom, you’ll bet I will stand up and say it’s no longer a want, it’s a need.” 

Lynnfield Public Schools enrollment estimates:

2019-2020: 890

2020-2021: 919

2021-2022: 953

2022-2023: 961

2023-2024: 985

Source: Lynnfield Public Schools

 

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