Although Londonderry schools continue to see enrollment declining, an increase in residential development has resulted in gains in student population at the preschool and North Elementary School.
School principals all reported at the School Board’s Dec. 15 budget workshop that efforts to “right-size” and reorganize staff to address declining enrollment are proving effective.
“Our instructional assistants are extremely professional. They’re there for the students and have shifted to support the needs of the students,” North School Principal Paul Dutton said. “They are working as part of a team with the teacher, administration with our small groups, as well as educational support staff. Based on the data we have so far, everything looks very promising and we think the reorganization has been very successful and well received by staff, students and parents.”
But as the District looks to a substantial development boom anticipated in the coming years, Business Administrator Peter Curro said it’s possible they will come to the Board as soon as next year with a request to add staff.
Superintendent Nate Greenberg noted the District is in the process of contracting for a study of enrollment projections and the use of school facilities to help plan for the future increases.
“In the next three to five years we will see bulges, but we will not go back to what we were 10 to 15 years ago,” he said. “The big question mark is Woodmont (Commons), which could have 500 housing units. I don’t believe they’re constructing any housing at this point, but over the next three to five years, my guess is those developments could bring in a couple hundred to 300 students. The big question for us now will be how soon the existing housing stock turns over for people who bought homes 20 years ago, and have children who graduated from high school and college.”
“If we have 100 new students coming in, and it’s spread over all the grades, there’s not much of an impact,” Curro said. “but if they all come into one grade, that’s a problem.”
As part of the FY17 budget, the District has proposed additional teaching hours for an additional Londonderry Early Education Program (LEEP) classroom at Moose Hill School.
Kindergarten Coordinator Bonnie Breithaupt told the Board the level of teaching assistant hours at the school continues to be adequate to serve the needs of students.
Each of the FY17 school budgets presented at the workshop represent a decrease from last year’s budget:
- Moose Hill School’s proposed FY17 budget of $37,735 represents a decrease of $590 from FY16.
- North Elementary School’s proposed FY17 budget of $69,929 represents a decrease of $4,128.
- Matthew Thornton Elementary School’s proposed FY17 budget of $77,559 represents a decrease of $2,630.
- South Elementary School’s proposed FY17 budget of $69,198 represents a decrease of $4,391.
- Londonderry Middle School’s proposed FY17 budget of $188,803 represents a decrease of $1,966.
- Londonderry High School’s proposed FY17 budget of $490,500 represents a decrease of $31,155.
Also considered in the workshop were budgets for Pupil Services and the District’s music program, which is also proposing a slight decrease in FY17 of $1,960, with a proposed FY17 budget of $65,060.
For Pupil Services, Director Kim Carpinone said the proposed FY17 budget of $3.3 million represents a $444,584 increase over last year’s budget.
The increase in the Pupil Services budget is the result of anticipated tuition increases for out-of-District placements; equipment needed for elementary, self-contained programs and specific individual students in the inclusionary programs; contractual transportation increases; and increases in the cost of contracted services for psychological counseling due to the number of students requiring outside evaluations and specific consultations.
Carpinone also noted her requests for the additional assistant hours for LEEP, at a total cost impact of $51,423; and for a full-time case manager for 504 Program students at the high school (students who need special accommodations for a medical condition) at a cost impact of $72,296.
Although the increases are substantial, Carpinone told the Board that investing in the District’s Special Education programs results in substantial cost savings for the District. Between FY06 and FY17, the District will realize a cost savings of 68 million from educating students with special needs in the District, rather than sending those students to programs in other communities.
The cost of programming for students in the School District can range between $22,000 and $43,000, compared with $50,000 to $120,000 for a student placed out of District, plus the cost of transportation, which ranges between $20,000 and $42,000, according to Carpinone.
“Most important, we are allowing children to be educated with their peers in their neighborhood schools, and to receive an excellent education,” she said, noting the number of students with complex disability categories, such as autism and developmental delays, is rising. “According to the budget, next year we will have 31 students enrolled, and we already have three students moving in who will be educated in those programs.”
Board member John Laferriere asked if Carpinone thinks families move into Londonderry because of the District’s reputation for serving students with special needs.
“Based on the information I have heard from parents, the answer is yes, I would expect that,” Carpinone said. “When I look at other neighborhoods’ staffing, they may not have the same expertise Londonderry has brought together.”
As the District looks to anticipated increases in enrollment, particularly among students with special needs, Carpinone said she is discussing with her staff earning additional certifications, increasing the number of case managers and advancing professional development.
Moving forward in the budget process, the School Board will hold its next budget workshop on Jan. 7.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled on Jan. 14, and Deliberative Session is to be held Feb. 5 in the Londonderry High School cafeteria.