School Enrollment Numbers Not Dropping Drastically

The Derry School Board and administration will continue to work with a moving target of enrollment, while endeavoring to keep taxes under control.

Superintendent Laura Nelson gave her enrollment report at the Sept. 22 School Board meeting. While numbers continue to decline, they are not dropping drastically, Nelson and the board agreed.

Enrollment as of Sept. 22 is: Derry Village Elementary School, 470; Ernest P. Barka Elementary School, 553; East Derry Memorial Elementary School, 402; Grinnell Elementary School, 403; and South Range Elementary School, 339. The town’s two middle schools, Gilbert H. Hood and West Running Brook, have 706 and 522 students respectively.

The enrollment in the seven Kindergarten-Grade 8 schools has not “plummeted,” Nelson said. While they were 10 lower than 2014-15 at the beginning of the school year, eight children have moved in and “now we are minus two instead of minus 10,” she said.

Nelson said she has heard from people in the community who are concerned about the School Board adding teachers in a time of declining enrollment.

The district has a policy that stipulates the maximum size for each classroom, she said. In looking at class sizes over spring and summer, she and the board determined that several class sizes were “excessive.”

The maximum class size policy, adopted earlier this year, is Kindergarten, 18; Grades 1 and 2, 20; Grade 3, 22; and Grades 4-8, 25.

Nelson said, “Last year during the budget process we cut several teachers. We did our due diligence in reducing teachers.” But with enrollment changes, she added, she had to add some of those positions back in.

The state education aid is based on the number of students in the district as of Oct. 1. Nelson said, “In the first meeting in October we’ll show you what we have, and the number of classrooms we will need next year. Based on our policies, that’s the number that will be used in creating the budget,” she explained.

The Fiscal Advisory Committee and the board will begin meeting in November to craft the budget.

“We understand that it is a really charged topic in the community,” Nelson said.

She urged community residents with concerns to call her at 432-1210.

Nelson also gave a brief report on the district’s homeless children served under the McKinney-Vento Act. The district started the school year with 11 homeless students in grades K-8, coming from seven families, and is sharing services with another district for two of those students.

Nelson did not have the homeless data from Pinkerton Academy, where Derry tuitions its high school students, but said she would provide it at the next meeting.