The first official day of school at one Revere elementary school kicked off this Tuesday, and there was something very new greeting students at the 100-year-old McKinley School – trailer modules that will be used for classrooms.
Superintendent Paul Dakin said that the modules would be used for three 5th grade and one 3rd grade classroom at the McKinley School – which began classes earlier than all the other schools this year due to a state Extended Learning Time (ELT) grant. The real story with the trailer modules, Dakin said, is a district wide issue surrounding growing enrollments that have all schools bursting at the seams.
At McKinley, he said, the modules are just one creative way the district is solving the problem of too many students and too little space.
“We’re going to have 91 kids in the kindergarten at the McKinley School this year,” said Dakin. “The entire incoming kindergarten class will be the largest class we’ve ever taken in. We have more than 550 kids registered right now. That’s huge and it’s across the district. We’re projecting a class in excess of 600 kids by first grade, because not all parents send their kids to kindergarten. It’s scary how much we’ve blown up. We’re lucky we got onto these modules when we did and I wish I had gotten onto it earlier.”
The trend of growing classes has taken place over the last 10 years, but it has really exploded over the last few years. Many had postulated that the growth couldn’t continue again this year, but the record-setting kindergarten class has now dashed such hopes of getting the space problem under wraps.
Dakin said that the middle schools have grown, but at a slower pace. The high school, however, is in desperate need of space – so much so that even Dakin’s office and the rest of the administration need to find a place to move so new high school classrooms can be located there.
And like the McKinley, every other elementary school is crowded.
In response, Dakin said the schools have hired 25 new teachers to new positions this year, more than they’ve hired in quite some time. However, he said they don’t have anywhere to put those teachers, so they’re trying something new.
“We need those positions because of the increased enrollment,” he said. “We hired four or five a year, but we’re to the point where we couldn’t do that anymore. We didn’t have room to hire them and we still don’t. What we are doing is to hire a third teacher into two classrooms and have those three work together in only two locations.”
That sort of team teaching, he said, is a way to lower class sizes and have a greater capacity to work individually with students in the absence of proper classroom space.
“We’ll be dealing with that kind of scenario in every school at every grade,” he said. “We have to do something. You can’t just have 32 kids in a kindergarten classroom. It’s not fair to the kids or the teachers.”
Dakin said they would also remain vigilant in rooting out students who do not actually live in Revere, but have registered for Revere schools.
“We have people who track them and we catch them all year long,” he said. “We have two people who do that full time and I could use a third. I know it’s a real problem, but I believe we do a good job of ferreting out those that are there and shouldn’t be. I think we do get most of them. Some people don’t believe we do, but I think we do.”
The schools will have a firmer grasp on enrollment numbers on Oct. 1st, the day that final enrollment reports are due into the state. For now, though, Dakin said they have begun getting creative with the problem.
“These modules are one thing we are doing,” he said. “They will lose playground space, but gain classroom space. That’s what we have to do.”