Education, News

Nahant may soon export fifth-grade class to Swampscott

(Spenser R. Hasak)

NAHANT — The Johnson School’s current fifth-grade class might be headed to Swampscott Middle School this fall. The Nahant and Swampscott school committees are currently negotiating terms for a temporary student-hosting agreement.

Swampscott Public Schools (SPS) currently hosts Nahant students from grades seven through 12 in return for annual payments. This year, Nahant paid SPS $1,607,137 to send its middle and high-school students to school in Swampscott.

According to Johnson School Principal Kevin Andrews, Nahant’s current fourth and fifth-grade classes are unusually small, with only six fifth-grade students and eight fourth-graders. Nahant Superintendent of Schools Tony Pierantozzi said the towns are currently negotiating the costs and duration of a potential two-year agreement.

“The issue is that the classes at the Johnson School are very, very small, and uniquely very small. The classes before them and after them are more typical, approximately 20 students,” Pierantozzi said. “The determination has been made that it may be a very positive thing to send the students to Swampscott Middle School earlier than the seventh grade for this unique group of students.”

Pierantozzi said the smaller class size was caused by a mixture of chance, families moving out of Nahant, and parents sending their children to private schools. The Marblehead Community Charter School recently expanded to educate students from across the region — a change that Pierantozzi said might have caused some Nahant students to leave the town’s school system.

While contract negotiations with Swampscott remain ongoing, Andrews said other options, such as combining the Johnson School’s fourth and fifth-grade classes into one, are on the table. He said he hopes any plan the district chooses for the 2023-24 school year will be temporary.

“I really view the school not simply as an elementary school, but really as what I would like to call a community school,” Andrews said. “Having all those grade levels really builds a sense of a town in terms of waiting until the students are ready to leave the island to really be sent off. It’s nice that we have up through grade six and I hope that years down the road, we’ll still have grade six, regardless of what decision is made for this year.”

The Nahant School Committee will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Johnson School to discuss Swampscott’s contract conditions and response to previous negotiations. Pierantozzi said so far, all parties involved have shown a level of commitment and dedication throughout the planning process.

“Both school committees are very, very focused on doing what’s best for the students they represent, but specifically for this very small group of students uniquely. It has really presented a unique issue to address, and the Swampscott School Committee has been very positive and very cordial in these discussions,” he said. “We’re really all on board in doing what’s best for the kids.”

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