Enrollment Reports Show Bursting Elementary Schools, Nearly as Many Latino Students as White Students

November 2, 2011
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Official school enrollment figures were recently released by the state and the Revere School System’s total enrollment is at an all-time high, with 1,000 more students in 2011 than in 2001.

The district’s population was at 6,735 in the official ‘October 1’ reports that are taken by the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). That number includes students from Revere who have been placed outside of the district.

Superintendent Paul Dakin said that the most striking thing is that the enrollment has ballooned in the last four years, growing by 607 students in that time period.

The schools grew by 228 students just this year alone.

It was cause for Dakin to add to his call for construction of another new school beyond the McKinley School.

“If the numbers keep going the way they are with another 607 kids in the next four years, we will absolutely not have anywhere to put them,” he said.

Dakin plans to come before the City Council this month to seek approval for filing a new State of Interest with the Massachusetts School Building Authority. That filing will request the start of a process to build a sixth new school at a location as yet undetermined.

By and large, the population is booming at the lower grades, with the elementary schools showing the largest growth this year.

An example of that is the Whelan School, which has 752 students, and the Garfield Elementary, which has 791 students. Even the tiny McKinley School is nearing 500 students, with 483 enrolled.

“I don’t think it’s a baby boom,” he said. “I think it’s a reflection of people moving in to the community and they are young families. At the Parent Information Center when they register a new person for third grade, the parents usually have two other young ones in there that will be coming to school soon too. The elementary schools are bursting. The people moving in are of a young age and they have young kids and bigger families and even extended families.”

The reports also detailed the changing demographic of the schools, and essentially, the community.

This year was the second year that the number of minority students have exceeded the number of white students, with 44 percent white and 56 percent non-white.

This was the first year in the district that Latino students were nearly as numerous as white students, quantifying the increasing young Latino population in Revere.

The district had 42 percent Latino students and 44 percent white students.

Additionally, some 48 percent of students in Revere indicate that their first language is not English.

The next highest racial group was Asian students, who make up 6 percent of the enrollment.

Those demographic numbers, however, are more for adults, Dakin said. He said that students – even at the high school – are less likely to be aware of the racial or ethnic differences in their schools. He said that is a generational difference that he has noted, and one that took root more than 10 years ago.

“Kids are much more blinded to these differences than adults, especially the kids of today,” he said. “It probably started with the classes some 10 years ago. The kids in that generation are blinded to cultural differences. There are some that are only white to white and some that are only Latino to Latino, but for the most part at the high school, it’s blind.”

One of the more striking numbers – though it did not increase or decrease – was the amount of poverty indicated by students in the schools.

This year’s figure showed that 71 percent of students live below the poverty line, which is disturbing to district officials, but not a new phenomenon.

“We’re a poor community and we’re poorer than we’ve ever been,” Dakin said. “That number has leveled off in that area, but it’s up dramatically in the last 10 to 15 years. It’s a reflection of the transiency.”

The school with the highest rates of poverty were the McKinley (84 percent) and the Garfield Elementary (83 percent), but even the lowest level of poverty – at the Whelan School (64 percent) – was far more than 50 percent.

Dakin said numbers at the high school are probably similar, but reporting is far less accurate as students don’t usually return forms.

One area where there were few disparities in poverty, language and demographics was in the middle schools.

“That’s why we went to the lottery system in the first place because it does even everything out at an early age,” he said. “You can see how the numbers would be in disparity at the middle school too if we were to group kids together in neighborhood middle schools. We have deliberately prevented that and the numbers show it.”

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