Drop in students expected to slow

  • A map showing the dispersion of Concord students across the district over the last four school years. The green dots indicate the first year; each colored dot layered on top indicates how long a student stayed in the district. Davis Demographics—Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 2/11/2019 10:13:12 PM

Concord’s student population will continue to drop in the next 10 years, but at half the rate of the last decade.

That’s just one of the big takeaways from a demographic study presented to the Concord school board Monday night. The information presented by Davis Demographics was just a broad overview of the company’s 10-year projection into Concord’s enrollment future. A full report is expected to come later.

But it was enough to raise some big questions about some key decisions the district will have to make in the future, such as whether to move fifth grade into Rundlett Middle School if a renovation occurs to free up space in the elementary schools or whether to redraw the elementary school boundary lines.

Here are some of the highlights:

What the numbers look like

From 2007 to 2017, the district’s enrollment dropped by roughly 612 students, according to student data.

Over the next 10 years, that trend is projected to slow way down, going from 4,423 total students this year to 4,125 students in year 2029, according to Lorne Woods, who represents Davis Demographics.

That figure could be even lower after 2024, when the AREA agreement with the Deerfield school district is set to expire. Next year is the last year when a Deerfield student could attend Concord as a ninth grader and graduate as a senior. At this point, it’s too early to say whether Deerfield is planning to renew its agreement.

Kindergarten will stayrelatively steady

After experiencing a decline in enrollment for four years, the district’s kindergarten population is expected to level out, compared to older grades.

The middle school population is expected to drop by about 90 students; in the high school, they’re expected to lose around 200 students.

But the elementary schools are expected to actually gain about 12 students. That’s possibly due to the addition of full-day kindergarten this year, Woods said.

Not only that, but more kindergarten students are projected to stay in the district: Woods said he took birth rate data from the state and compared it with kindergarten class counts.

According to that data, about 60 percent of children born in the district each year since 2006 ended up enrolling in the district five years later. This year, however, 87.6 percent of the children born five years ago enrolled in the district – another factor Woods chalked up to the addition of full-day kindergarten.

Over the next 10 years, the percentage of children born in the district who will enroll for at least kindergarten is expected to remain in the 70 percent range, Woods said. But he cautioned that could be an anomaly.

After all, this year’s “spike” in students coincides with the lowest birth rates in the city since at least 2003, Woods found. That aforementioned 87.6 percent comes from 331 births in the city, 290 of which started school this year. Compare that to last year, when only 68.7 percent of the 407 students born in Concord five years ago enrolled in school.

That steadiness isn’t spread out over the district, however. The Abbot-Downing School, which serves the city’s South End, is expected to lose about 48 students over 10 years, or about two classrooms, Woods found.

It’s in stark contrast to Christa McAuliffe and Beaver Meadow Schools. Both schools are expected to gain 30 to 35 students in the next decade.

Elementary schools nowhere near capacity

All four of the district’s elementary schools are at least 20 percent below permanent capacity, or the maximum amount of students they were built to hold, according to Davis.

That may be no surprise to anyone who has been following the class size conversation – about three-fourths of the district’s elementary schools are either at or below the district’s enrollment targets, according to district data.

But whereas Abbot-Downing, Christa McAuliffe and Broken Ground/Mill Brook schools are all in the 70 percent range, Beaver Meadow School is only at 58.5 percent.

Woods said a healthy permanent capacity is around 75 to 85 percent for elementary schools.

Developmentplays a part

A big part of the district’s future may depend on what kind of housing comes into the city in the next 10 years.

Woods said he was told by the city that much of the housing in Concord’s future is high-end single family homes or condos – housing that isn’t always available to young couples looking to start a family.

“It’s not that it won’t happen,” he said. “It’s just you can’t plan on what’s not available.”


(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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