After several years of modest enrollment increases, the East Greenwich School District is looking at a significant hike in numbers this September. For some families, that means their children will have to attend a different elementary school then their neighborhood would normally dictate.
Since the 2010-11 school year, the total increase in the number of students at EG public schools was 12. Last year, there were 2,410 students. But since that 2,410 figure was noted (in October 2013, as per the state Dept. of Education), the district has added an estimated 40 students.
The school department has not finalized enrollment numbers for the coming year, but the registrar estimates there will be 2,450 students come September. And the students are being added at every level.
But, for reasons that may be due to an improving economy and an increase in home sales, students whose natural school would be Frenchtown or Eldredge are being the hardest hit. When those classes fill up, the overflow is going to Meadowbrook (for Frenchtown) and Hanaford (for Eldredge).
A report that an incoming 3rd grader was going to be sent to Cedar Hill Elementary School in Warwick because there is no room in EG schools has been strongly denied by Supt. Victor Mercurio. He said there may have been some confusion due to the terminology used by school officials, noting that the school department refers to Frenchtown and Eldredge as one “district” and Meadowbrook and Hanaford as another. In that context, “out of district” referred to different schools, not a different school district or town.
Still, parents are frustrated that their children aren’t able to attend the school others in their neighborhood attend.
That’s been the case for Sara Doherty, who moved to the Hill in August 2013 with her two elementary-age daughters.
“I was trying, as a single mother, to make my life easier,” Doherty recounted this week. She owns Sundance studio on Main Street and looked forward to being close to both work and Eldredge. But there was no room for her daughter in the 4th grade at Eldredge so she was sent to Hanaford, and her younger daughter, going to 2nd grade, was similarly spaced out at Frenchtown so she was sent to Meadowbrook.
Doherty spent most of last year driving her younger daughter to and from Meadowbrook because the bus stop was several blocks away, but she made it work, hoping that, by this year, her girls could both attend Eldredge and walk to school with their neighbors.
“All the kids from our street pass by our house and the girls were looking out the door watching them,” said Doherty of last year. They were still home because Meadowbrook and Hanaford start 45 minutes later than Eldredge and Frenchtown.
In June, Doherty learned both girls were spaced out of Eldredge. Then, earlier this month, she was told a spot had opened up in the 5th grade at Eldredge for her older daughter. There was still no space for her 3rd grader at Eldredge, however. That left the girls going to different schools with different start times.
Doherty grabbed the 5th grade spot, however, hoping for a place to open in 3rd grade too at Eldredge. It’s a gamble, she said, but she is hoping her girls can be together next year and that her younger daughter can have three years at the school just three blocks from home.
Supt. Mercurio said new classrooms are opened only when all the available spaces – at Frenchtown and Meadowbrook for grades K through 2 and Eldredge and Hanaford for grades 3 through 5 – are filled. That’s why, he said, he always tells real estate agents not to promise prospective homeowners that their children will attend a specific elementary school.