It's elementary: Enrollment at new Brunswick school exceeds expectations

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BRUNSWICK — With the first day of school less than a week away, Brunswick teachers, staff, and administrators are making final preparations for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Much of the excitement surrounds the opening of Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School on McKeen Street, where more than 500 parents and students converged Tuesday and Wednesday for their first up-close look at the new, $28 million building.

On Wednesday night the playground was filled with kids trying out the equipment for the first time. Watching on were Peter and Lisa Stricklett, who just moved to Brunswick from Salt Lake City, Utah.

They said they picked Brunswick for its schools, and were impressed with Stowe, where their son, Eric, will start as a fourth-grader.

“The classrooms are gorgeous, they’re really neat,” Lisa Stricklett said.

“The junior high is envious,” said Peter Stricklett, referring to his daughter, who will be starting sixth grade at the junior high school.

On the second floor, best friends Ryan Duffy and Sarah Bellig were trying out the new chairs in their fifth-grade classroom. They said they liked the colors and freshness of the school, while Sarah’s mom, Julia Bellig, said she was impressed with how nature has been incorporated into the school’s design.

“It’s warm, inviting and calm at the same time,” she said.

Excitement about the new school has transferred into an unexpected increase in enrollment in grades two through five. Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski said more than 20 new students were added over the summer, including at least a dozen whose parents pulled them out of private schools to attend the new school.

Designed for 600 students, Stowe will hold close to 650 second- through fifth-graders this fall. Administrators had expected 630. Perzanoski said the school could probably accommodate another 50 to 60 students.

“I’m not viewing it as a problem right yet,” he said of the increase. “You always have space, depending on how many kids you want in a classroom.”

Kindergarten enrollment also spiked over the summer, driving class sizes up to 22 students. Perzanoski said he had anticipated no more than 20 students per classroom.

Enrollment at the junior high and high school is right on target, around 530 and between 900 and 1,000, respectively. Perzanoski said there are about 2,500 students in the district as of Wednesday, although he won’t have final figures until Monday, Aug. 29.

Back at Stowe, Solomon Levy was grilling teacher Suzanne Viola about who else is in his fourth-grade class. He said he was excited to be attending the “humongous” new school.

“I’ve heard so much about it,” he said, smiling.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.

Best friends Ryan Duffy and Sarah Bellig see how much they can wiggle in the chairs Wednesday in their fifth-grade classroom at Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School in Brunswick.

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Teacher Suzanne Viola shows Solomon and Sadie Levy who else is in Solomon’s fourth-grade class at the new Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School during Wednesday’s family drop-in event in Brunswick.

Parents and students visited Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School in Brunswick on Wednesday for family drop-in night. The new school officially opens next week.

Back to school in Brunswick

• Brunswick High School opens at 7:40 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 31, for freshman and new students. Grades 10, 11 and 12 will have their first day of class on Thursday, Sept. 1.

• Brunswick Junior High School opens at 7:50 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 31, for grade 6 orientation. Students in grades 7 and 8 will arrive at 10:55  a.m. and report to their adviser’s rooms. Thursday is a regular day of school for all grades.

• Coffin School (grade 1) and Harriet Beecher Stowe School (grades 2-5) will open at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 31.

• Thursday, Sept. 1, will be the first day for kindergarten students, beginning with an orientation for students and parents from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Friday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Sept. 2, 6, and 7, will be half days for all kindergarten students (ending at 11:25 a.m.) and Thursday, Sept. 8, will be the first full-day kindergarten session (9 a.m.-3:20 p.m.).

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