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Public schools' enrollment continues to rise

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UPDATED: Enrollment continues to rise in Arlington, according to the latest numbers reported to the School Committee.

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, calling the October report "a snapshot," said Thursday, Oct. 9, that the total increase is 213, a bit above the 180 to 200 estimated at the Sept. 18 meeting.

All of the numbers must be certified by the state, expected in late October, when they become of the basis for the public schools' Chapter 70 aid.

"We are a very attractive community," committee member Paul Schlichtman said, alluding to the reason for the rise of close to 500 students districtwide over the last three years.

Diane Fisk Johnson, chief financial officer, plans to use the certified numbers as the basis for projecting future enrollment, always a tricky matter.

Schlichtman noted the stability in enrollment in one instance -- the 471 kindergartners last year have become 479 first graders.

Less easy to gauge is the number entering kindergarten, which was 508 this year.

Overall, based on the Oct. 8 report, the high school has 1,225 students, Ottoson 1,107 and the elementary schools 2,836, or a total of 5,168.

The elementary schools showed increases this year compared to last in all but Dallin and Peirce.

October enrollment confirms what Bodie said Sept. 18 -- that Dallin has two classes of 25 in kindergarten. She said the average number in kindergarten is 23, she said last month.

Dallin shed

Responding to Dallin parents' concern in September about kindergarten crowding, Bodie called a building shed at Dallin "a great idea" to make more room. She said has been talking with Principal Thad Dingman.

According to the minutes of the Oct. 9 Dalling PTO meeting, the parent group wants to buy a temporary shed that will be used for storage while a permanent shed is built. The purpose of the shed is to remove storage from the building to make room for more teaching spaces.

The PTO voted $1,200 and approved for the temporary shed with the understanding that the total amount might end up being less if a permanent shed is built quickly.

"Concern was raised over whether the PTO should help pay for the permanent shed, and it was determined that further discussion on this issue is necessary," the minutes say.

Johnson wrote in an Oct. 2 memo: "As reported last month, unexpected enrollment growth led us to hire more positions than originally budgeted. ... [W]e are still projecting to spend a significant amount beyond what was budgeted. This amount can be covered by reserves in the Foreign Visa revolving account ....

The memo says Johnson is still developing a presentation on fiscal 2014. In general, she wrote, the public schools ended the year $838,056 over budget, and that was covered by the return of special-education reserves from Town Meeting, emergency funding for the damage caused by the burst pipe at the Peirce School and existing school reserves.

This story was published Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. It was updated the same day to include information about a Dallin shed.

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