“Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X
Hopkinton again and again reveals itself to be a community where education is prized. Now that we are in budget season, I am hoping to help our families understand the needs of our schools. The information I will share will be data driven.
In this blog entry, I want to talk a bit about student enrollment and its impacts on our physical plants--that is, our school buildings.
Consider this: In the past three years, we have enrolled a net increase of over 500 students across all grade levels. The school population has risen from about 3,500 students to 4,000 students. Three years ago, when school opened in 2016, we had just about 500 students in the Hopkins School, a school with 24 regular education classrooms. Think about it: WE HAVE ADDED AN ENTIRE SCHOOL’S WORTH OF STUDENTS, AND YET WE HAVE NOT ADDED A SINGLE CLASSROOM. Using that math, we are short about 24 classrooms right now.
Ask yourself: what company could handle that kind of growth without adding new office square footage? Would they just use smaller cubicles? Would they remove the break room so they could use it for an office? Would they require people to carpool because the parking lot is too small to handle more cars? Would they begin construction on another wing? Another off-site physical plant?
Over the past three years, we have also needed to transition our use of spaces (in some cases this has meant full-sized classrooms, teachers’ professional learning rooms, or even storage areas) to meet students’ special education needs, social emotional needs, and English learner needs. Next year, for example, the Elmwood School will have approximately 100 students who qualify for English learner services; this figure is based on the number of students enrolled in our schools today. EL students will occupy two classroom spaces at Elmwood. AND YET, WE HAVE NOT ADDED A SINGLE CLASSROOM.
When the School Department presents its capital budget this year, we will be looking for additional classroom space at Elmwood, Hopkins, and the High School. Two of these “fixes” could be temporary; the High School request will be permanent construction.
I understand that people wonder why? Currently, our class sizes exceed recommended class sizes. Some of our classrooms in grades 1, 3, 4, and 5 have as many as 24 students right now. Without additional classrooms, we are going to be facing inordinately large class sizes next year in 2020-2021--the kinds of class sizes that will compromise the quality of education in Hopkinton. Very simply put, we need classroom space to accommodate the numbers of students we have in front of us now as well as those who will join us anew next year, a number we expect to be similar to this year, which at present count is 260 NEW STUDENTS THIS YEAR.
Please also know that the School District is working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to consider ways of addressing our rapidly expanding student population LONG TERM. The temporary classrooms we are currently proposing will get us over the hump, until we determine a plan for new construction, a plan that will be brought to the community for approval.
I encourage you to follow our budget messaging at school committee meetings, on HCAM, and in other publications. Further, any parent can call or email me at the Central Office to learn more. According to FY18 data, Hopkinton spends less per pupil than Natick, Medfield, Marlborough, Wellesley, Newton, Southborough, Northborough, Sudbury, Framingham, Needham, Dedham, Wayland, Dover-Sherborn, Keefe Tech, Blackstone Valley…
Our needs are based on today and supported by ongoing projections of similarly high enrollments, but even without additional enrollment growth, we need classroom space to serve the students who are already here.
Finally, just to offer you a visual, below you can see a couple of pictures taken at the High School on Thursday morning, October 10th, at 7:35AM. These pictures illustrate students assigned to a study hall during that period, students for whom there is no classroom space. They are housed in the library, hallway areas, and the cafeteria. This highlights that the high school is at almost 100% capacity, all day long.
about 75 students in all