HARVARD -- School opened on Aug. 29. While final enrollment figures are not officially set until Oct. 1, interim Superintendent Joseph Connelly reported to the Harvard School Committee on Monday night that "things are very well balanced" in terms of class sizes.
It was a "wise decision" to have settled on four, instead of three, full-day kindergarten classes, said Connelly. Enrollment now sits at 60 kindergartners at Hildreth Elementary School, allowing for four classes of 15 students each. Per school policy, kindergarten classes are to have no more than 18 students per class.
For first and second grades, the enrollment numbers are "slightly below" the target policy ranges. With four classes each, first grade has 70 students enrolled, while the Oct. 1, 2011, projection for this school year was for 72 first-grade students at HES this fall. The first grade class size is 18 to 20 students per class.
There are also four sections for second grade, where enrollment stands at 67 students. The second-grade class size is ideally targeted for 18 to 22 students per class.
Grades 3 through 12 all have enrollments that meet the enrollment policy parameters. There were 89 projected third-graders last fall, but there are 82 third-graders now enrolled. There were 94 fourth-graders projected for this year, while only 89 are enrolled to date. There were 88 projected fifth-graders for this year, while 89 have now enrolled.
At the Hildreth Elementary School, the total realized headcount fell behind expectations by 21 students. There are 457 HES students in kindergarten through grade 5. Last October, it was projected the school would have 478 students at those levels (the figure does not count students enrolled in the integrated pre-kindergarten program).
At The Bromfield School, there are five sections for each grade from 6 through 12. Class sizes are to fall within the 20- to 24-student range.
In the middle school, the enrollment count has fared one better than October's projections. There are 309 middle-school students, up from the 308 student projection. At the high school, the net enrollment is down to 435, a two-student variation from October's 437 projection for this year.
Overall, there are 1,201 students as of Sept. 5, which is 22 students lower than projected last October (1,223) for grades kindergarten through 12. The October estimate was "quite close," noted Connelly, who added that there are still three weeks until the enrollment figure is officially set for the current school year.
But what about honors class sizes, asked committee member Kirsten Wright. Advanced Placement (AP) calculus has 28 students, while honors algebra has 29 students, she noted.
Connelly agreed that in secondary school "where kids move and are not in self contained classrooms ... the enrollment will fluctuate quite dramatically."
Connelly said it was important to note that the district is down 38 students from last year. It's a sign of class sizes to come, since Bromfield graduated 105 seniors last year, while the incoming kindergarten class size is roughly 40 percent smaller, with just 60 students.
"If you look at grades 7 through 12, you can see that we're in the 100s -- 102 to 114," said Connelly. For kindergarten through second grade, overall class sizes sink into the 60s and 70s.
"Clearly for the next several years, we'll graduate more students than we bring in," said Connelly. "Projections are for steady declining enrollment over the next several years."
Kindergarten enrollments are "quite a bit off from what our projection was a year ago," said Connelly. Birth rates are down and inward migration movement is off.
In last couple of years, Harvard has averaged low 20s in birth rates annually; it used to be in the 40 to 50 births per year. While it's a "dramatic drop," Connelly said the town also does experience a "high move-in rate" in the real-estate market. "But it's certainly trending towards a steady decline over the next couple of years."
Connelly offered congratulations to the schools' principals, Jim O'Shea at The Bromfield School and Linda Dwight at Hildreth Elementary School, for the start of the new school year. "We got good feedback."