Although enrollment numbers in Londonderry continue to decline, this year’s kindergarten and first grade classes were larger than anticipated.
Overall, enrollment on Oct. 1 of last year was 4,392 students, compared with 4,373 students as of last week, the opening of school, according to Superintendent Nate Greenberg.
“We’re down by about 19 students from last year, but we’re about 120 students over projected,” he said. “The issue for us is whether this is a one-time blip, or a trend we’re seeing. It’s fair to say the rate of decline has slowed.”
Greenberg said the District had a busy summer, with about 217 new student registrations.
“Some of it is coming from new construction in town, and some through housing turnover and apartment turnover,” he said.
At Matthew Thornton Elementary School, the District projected 497 students and as of last Friday, the school stands at about 528 students.
“That’s more than we projected, but less than enrollment last year,” Greenberg said.
“We had a huge influx, especially in our building. Because the numbers were higher than we projected and we wanted to make sure we balanced out the classrooms, we added a teacher in first grade to keep the numbers down,” Matthew Thornton Principal Sharon Putney said. “Now we have five first-grade classes, with 17 or 18 kids in each. Right now, we’re about 30 students over projection. I think it’s really good for the town, and great for the school and School District.”
Moose Hill Kindergarten also saw an uptick in enrollment by about 15 students, according to Kindergarten Coordinator Bonnie Breithaupt.
“We have, between the a.m. and p.m. sessions, an average of 17 students per class, and we have the staff to accommodate the increase. We didn’t have to hire any new staff,” she said.
At South Elementary School, Principal Linda Boyd said first grade enrollment had a little boost at the start of the year as well.
“Because we were conservative, when we first got the enrollments, they were very healthy when we started, around 17 and 18 students per class,” she said. “The first grade was impacted the most, but we had already started with low numbers.”
The first grade saw a total of 13 new students, and there are 10 new students in second grade.
Despite the increases, South School’s ratio of students to staff is still healthy, with class sizes hovering around 19 students. Healthy class size is 20 students and under, according to Boyd.
In addition to the boost in enrollment, school principals throughout the District were also excited to report a great first day of school.
At Moose Hill, Breithaupt said the kindergartners, most of whom had an opportunity to ride the bus with their parents on the first day of school, are off to a great start.
“Most of the students settled in quite nicely,” she said, noting almost all knew their way to class by their third day of school.
“We had a really awesome opening. It was really exciting,” Putney reported of the first day at Matthew Thornton. “The kids were all smiles coming off the buses, and all smiles when they left at the end of the day. That’s key.”
Boyd said students at South School looked healthy and rested, and ready to be part of the school on their first day back.
“We can never predict tears, but there were not too many this year,” she said, noting the school’s fifth grade buddies helped ease the transition. “The kids all settled in nicely and got right to work.”
North Elementary School Principal Paul Dutton said the school’s fifth grade buddies definitely helped ease the transition for incoming first graders, as did the school’s orientation day prior to the start of school.
“Our fifth grade buddies helped students get to the right bus and ensured a familiar face was on that bus for them,” he said. “They are also serving as safety patrol officers in the hallways, setting expectations within the school.”
At Londonderry Middle School, Principal Richard Zacchilli said they saw a slight decrease in enrollment from 1,018 students in June of last year to 1,005 students starting school.
However, enrollment is up 13 students from what they had projected for the 2015-2016 school year.
“We’re getting a lot of move-ins and move-outs right now, so it’s balancing out and we’re not seeing the spike other schools are seeing,” he said.
Londonderry High School Assistant Principal Katie Sullivan said incoming ninth grade students also adjusted well during Freshman Orientation, which she said was “very organized and well run.
“The start of school has been outstanding,” she said. “The incoming freshmen showed a lot of respect for our school and we’re looking forward to having a great year with them. The Student Council members were a great help, showing around students who were lost. Lancer Nation is back and ready to go.”
“The opening of school went very well,” Greenberg agreed. “Things were just great. Teachers were very well prepared and students looked excited to be back. We are really enthusiastic about the coming year.”
Moving forward, Greenberg said the District’ priorities include implementing the SAT in grade 11 as the State accountability assessment (see related story on page 1), a focus on what the District is calling “Perseverance, Ownership and Practice,” continued work on the District’s college and career readiness initiative and efforts to meet its goal of achieving 92 percent acceptance among the senior class to two- and four-year colleges.
“We have added a number of dual enrollment classes, where kids can take a course in high school and get high school and college credit, as well as new AP (Advanced Placement) courses,” he said. “There’s a lot of really good stuff going on all across the District. Faculty and staff seem to be up and ready, and excited.”