As enrollments soar, superintendent calls for another school

The new school smell still hasn’t worn out of the School Department’s latest new building, the Paul Revere School, and already Superintendent Paul Dakin is saying he needs another.

Sound insane?

It’s really not when one analyzes the enrollment numbers from the past few years.

This year, as of late last week, the total school enrollment – from K-12 – is up by 288 students over last year. It’s up exactly 400 students from just two years ago.

The district’s total enrollment as of last week was 6,433 students, and officials believe it would eclipse the 6,500 mark when all is said and done. That would be close to 1,000 more students that just five or so years ago.

“It’s very scary,” said Dakin. “I don’t know how we’re going to make it through. We grew by 300 kids in one year. That’s a small school…Ten years ago, we had nine schools and now we have 11 schools. You would think it’s enough, but it’s not. If we get another 250 kids next year, what will we do? It’s getting to the point where we need to talk about building another new school.”

In fact, Dakin said it’s not an issue for the near future, but one that is pressing the district right now.

“I am truly worried about school houses in the district in the next three years,” he said. “The community has to wake up.”

The extraordinary growth seems to be occurring mostly at the middle school and the elementary school levels, with larger gains in the younger grades.

Meanwhile, the high school – which used to have the largest growth – has actually declined in enrollment over the same period.

Dakin said that a lot of the problem is a growing population as well as new housing arrangements caused by the recession, but he also said that there are probably a lot of kids sneaking into the district as well.

“I do not dismiss the fact that we’re not catching everybody,” he said. “I think there are hundreds who are beating us. They’re getting all the information in, but they’re probably not really living there.”

Many see Dakin’s call as rather surprising given that the City has just completed construction of two new middle schools and two new elementary schools.

However, those were planned more than 10 years ago, and Mayor Tom Ambrosino said that population estimates couldn’t take everything into consideration.

“I think a lot of it is many kids are returning to our schools from private schools,” he said. “I think our reputation is permeating through the city. I don’t think we did count on that happening…Certainly, also, our population has grown quicker than we anticipated.”

Dakin said that he hopes there will be some real brainstorming before the new McKinley School building project is planned. That project could happen anywhere from five to 10 years from now.

Dakin said it might be wise to consider enlarging the project, taking more land and having a South Revere Education Complex – just as happened with the elementary school/middle school complex in West Revere.

He also said that he anticipates a large amount of growth from the building project on Revere Beach in the next 10 years.

While some have said it’s not the kind of development that would attract families, Dakin dismissed that and pointed to the Overlook Ridge apartment community in North Revere.

“All the talk that there would be no kids coming out of there is gone,” he said. “We have about 35 kids coming out of there this year and it’s going to cost us $455,000 to educate them. I hope they’re getting more than that in tax dollars.”

Mayor Ambrosino disagreed.

“Given the number of apartments, I don’t think that number is significant,” he said.

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