Winchester Star, September 12, 2013
WHS Renovation and Addition: Addressing Enrollment Growth
by William McAlduff, Superintendent of Schools
Residents of Winchester are aware of the on-going enrollment increase in our town’s public school system and some of the pressures that growth has played on our buildings and budget. In a recent Boston Globe article outlining how statewide enrollment is declining, Winchester was highlighted as the leader of only a few Boston north communities experiencing increases in school population.
The Winchester community has supported investments to accommodate this enrollment growth at the elementary and middle school levels. It is currently seeking a solution to resolve overcrowding at Winchester High School (WHS).
According to the most recent US Census data, Winchester’s population grew from 20,810 in 2000 to 21,374 in 2010, or 2.7%. During that same time period, WHS’s enrollment grew from 907 students to 1,090 – or 20.2%. This year 1,164 students entered the high school on the first day of school– a 28.3% increase since 2010. Our total student population (grades K-12) increased 33.1% over the same period – from 3,292 students in 2000 to 4,381 students today.
As we look ahead, the trend continues. By the first day of school in 2017, WHS’s enrollment is projected to be 1,313 students, or a 44.8% growth from the baseline year of 2000.
Accommodating Student Growth in our School Buildings
Enrollment increases at WHS over the years has created an on-going need to add additional instructional space. This has been accomplished in two ways: re-purposing and partitioning.
Eight classrooms spaces have been added by sub-dividing existing space. These additional “classrooms” have come at the expense of open instructional areas designed to provide both critical large group and small-team breakout instruction areas.
The re-purposing of space at WHS is evidenced in the specialist spaces. The former metal shop has been lost to accommodate a vital computer lab. Additionally, the wood shop is being shared as a location for some of our engineering/technology activities and work space. Although no longer used for past purposes, new spaces have not been renovated to meet the needs of a competitive technology program.
Since 2000, the community has supported a complete renovation of the Lincoln School; a complete renovation/addition to the McCall Middle School plus a subsequent nine classroom addition; a total reconstruction of both the Ambrose and Vinson-Owen Schools; the addition of portable classrooms at the Ambrose and Muraco Schools; and just this summer, the transformation of the school district’s administrative offices at the Lynch School into three classrooms and additional specialists space. All of these capital building projects were necessary to meet the need for both major facilities upgrades and additional classroom space due to enrollment growth.
The Need for New Classrooms
While the Town has done its best over recent years to creatively and cost-effectively address enrollment growth, continued and projected enrollment growth has created the need still for 10 more classrooms. Past divisions of classrooms has contributed to a situation where approximately 80% of classrooms do not meet current state size standards. Finally, changes in state and federal mandates, changes in pedagogy and course offerings, and the advancement of technology has meant a change, over time, in how instructional space is used.
The Proposed Renovation/Addition to the WHS The proposed WHS project will provide the opportunity to appropriately accommodate WHS’s enrollment and education program, keeping with current competitive standards and educational strategies.
The project would update the entire Science area with separate instructional space to house both the academic (instruction) and the hands-on, experiential lab components of our Science course offerings. While our students achieve at a very high level in this curriculum area, the existing laboratory and instructional space does not meet current science education standards and does not provide the opportunities for Winchester to keep pace with neighboring towns.
Increasing enrollment at WHS has created an overcrowding issue. It was one of the driving reasons why the Massachusetts School Building Authority selected Winchester’s High School as a priority project to support with its limited funding resources.
In future articles you will hear more about the proposed WHS Building project and the need and impact for reconfigured, updated and more relevant educational space.