Potential new housing in Falmouth prompts school enrollment study

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FALMOUTH — In response to several proposed housing developments, including a contract zone that could add 151 units in West Falmouth, the town and School Department are joining forces on a new enrollment projection study.

The study should be completed sometime in November, according to Rebecca Wandell, the contractor the school district hired to conduct the study at a cost of more than $3,800.

The enrollment study is designed to provide “another data point for the town to consider when evaluating future development,” according to Dan O’Shea, the director of finance and operations for the schools.

“We have been pretty happy doing our own projections for the past 10 years or so,” O’Shea said, “but developments of this magnitude have not been on the table.”

Town Manager Nathan Poore said this week that “it’s too early to speculate what impact the study will have on any specific development proposal. … An enrollment study will have value for the School Department regardless of any specific developments being proposed in Falmouth.”

And, he said, “The impact of specific developments on the School Department will require more than (this) study. I suspect it will also require conversations among town and school staff, (along with) the School Board and the Town Council.”

Poore announced the enrollment study during an Oct. 23 public hearing on a proposed development moratorium that would temporarily halt two-family and multifamily residential projects in the town’s growth districts.

He mentioned the study in relation to comments by many residents last week that the town should not allow dense new housing projects to move forward until the impact on municipal and school resources is better understood.

Residents commenting on both the development moratorium and the proposed contract zone in recent months have expressed serious concerns about the School Department’s ability to absorb a multitude of new students.

To assist Wandell in her work, O’Shea said the School Department has provided information on historical enrollments by grade, resident students that attend schools elsewhere, home-schooled students and in-migration of students.

Wandell said her approach to the enrollment projection study would include looking at changes in the number of births in town and the net migration of preschool and school-aged children.

In addition, she will review enrollment trends as they relate to recent trends in population growth, housing and regional economic conditions. Wandell will also look at updated labor market data and population statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Her overall goal is to provide projections “within (a) range of plus and minus 3 to 10 percent for use in planning school facilities,” Wandell said in documents outlining her work plan.

She will provide projections for each different grade grouping of K-5, 6-8 and 9-12, as well as an overview of K-12 enrollment numbers to provide a picture of what the School Department can expect to see over the next 10 years.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

The Falmouth School Department and the town are joining forces on a new enrollment projection study expected to be completed in November.