Enrollment Up … Again: Extra 5th Grade Class, Extra Bus Needed

by | Aug 22, 2019

Above: Eldredge Elementary School will be opening an additional 5th grade class this year. Credit: Ray Johnson

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Supt. Victor Mercurio often says, “Business is good,” when asked about enrollment in EG schools. By that metric, it’s good again this year, with 2,526 students enrolled as of Aug. 22, 46 more students than last year at this time. The first day of school is Wednesday, Aug. 28.

But the higher enrollment comes at a last-minute cost: roughly $180,000 this year. 

The School Committee Thursday morning approved the hiring of an additional teacher for grade 5 at Eldredge because of increased numbers in that grade required an additional class (per the teachers contract). The cost for the teacher, including benefits, is anticipated to be around $80,000.

Longer bus ride times for students at Meadowbrook Farms Elementary prompted the School Committee to also approve an additional bus, at a cost of just under $100,000, including a bus monitor. Because the bus will be available, it will be used to transport Cole Middle School students after its Meadowbrook run.

“If we use an extra bus for one tier, essentially we own if for both, so we looked at where could we use it, and when we saw the rider numbers were very high at Cole, that was a logical choice,” explained Committeewoman Anne Musella, head of the transportation subcommittee. “We wanted to alleviate the pressure.”

As of now, it’s not clear where the extra $180,000 will come from. Supt. Mercurio said he wouldn’t know until the first or second quarters have passed whether or not the district would need to ask the Town Council for additional money (a “supplemental appropriation”). That’s partly because the district got $93,000 more money from the state than it had anticipated this year ($50,000 of which was used for full implementation of a new ELA K-2 curriculum) and partly because the district received a couple of unanticipated resignations this week. It will take a bit of time to replace those staff members and the replacements may well be at a lower step pay level, saving the district money. 

The district sought extra money from the town last year and got it. That could be a harder ask this year, since the district got everything it asked for during the 2020 budget process, a marked change from the past several years. 

Even if the district manages to absorb the budget hits this year, enrollment numbers in East Greenwich have been steadily ticking upward in recent years. With well more than 100 residential units on tap to be built in the next couple of years, it’s not unreasonable to anticipate a continued rise in enrollment. 

Mercurio said Colliers International, hired to complete a capital improvements plan for the district, is doing a detailed demographic study for the whole district. As part of that work, Colliers will be talking to the Planning Department to learn about proposed and approved residential developments. Mercurio said he thought the Colliers study would be done sometime this winter.

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