The Revere Public Schools (RPS) have soared above 7,000 students in total enrollment this year in what is likely the largest student population ever – or at least in recent history.
That said, it’s not only a Revere problem, district officials said, and as surrounding districts also soar in enrollment, a point of unity has emerged among all.
In Chelsea and Everett, those districts have also soared above 7,000 students and, like Revere, they continue to grow in numbers every day for numerous reasons. It’s a situation that is repeated in nearly every so-called Gateway City in the Commonwealth. From Brockton to Revere and all places in between, Gateway Cities have exploded in student population while suburban towns and outlying cities have decreased substantially.
In Revere and the surrounding communities, the story doesn’t end there. In fact, the surge in school-age children is only the beginning of the story because beyond that the districts are also combatting the transiency of their respective students in accommodating what is increasingly known as the ‘urban migrant.’
No longer do school districts have to make sure their curricula align within their own district, but now they have to work to make sure things match up from district to district.
Revere Supt. Paul Dakin said the phenomena has caused him to coin the new term ‘urban migrant student’ as kids go from one district to another so often and neighboring districts share students – often within the same school year.
“We’ve had 371 kids transfer in from neighboring communities between July 1 and Sept. 18,” Dakin said. “That kind of thing continues all year long. This is an urban migrant population that we share and have to plan for. It’s not just kids coming into Revere. They get similar numbers coming to them from us. It’s people coming out of Boston and coming to our communities. They live in Chelsea a while and then move to Everett for awhile and then end up in Revere. The urban migrant is one reason we’re working with these other communities to make sure we align our curriculum with one another. We trade around 10 percent of our kids among each other every year.”
Within the 371 kids that transferred into Revere, 147 came from Chelsea, 86 from Everett, 65 from Lynn, 43 from Boston and 30 from Winthrop.
The cooperation Dakin speaks of is a relatively new Five District Partnership inaugurated last year between Malden, Everett, Revere, Chelsea and Winthrop. The cooperation consists of routine meetings between leaders and specialists within each district, sharing about when they teach certain concepts. That comes in order to make sure they’re all teaching the same things at the same times.
“There’s so much back and forth between us that if we didn’t work together, it would affect the student success and take all the progress we’ve made and set it backward,” Dakin said. “We have to do that for these kids. If we’re doing factoring in the first quarter and another district is doing factoring in the third quarter, kids that are moving around are going to get multiple lessons on factoring and nothing else. The urban migrant has forced us to make sure our curriculum is consistent despite the fact that we’re in different cities and towns and different districts.”
What is fueling the transiency and the increase in total enrollment all over the area is increasing poverty, changing demographics and differences in living conditions. Dakin said they often see two-family homes used for multiple unites of extended family. Naturally, an aunt or uncle might live there with their children for a while, and then move to Chelsea or Everett with another family member. The difference in living conditions, he said, has a lot to do with the movement – along with the fact that Revere, Chelsea and Everett now register more than 80 percent of their student population below the poverty line.
“I think most of what we see is because of this doubling up and tripling up,” he said. “The poverty and families being so much larger force these living situations. You have multiple families in a single-family home and more than two families in a two-family home. There’s a lot of it. We see a lot of it and so do the other communities. People use all the bedrooms in a house for other family members to live in and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.”