Friday, June 8, 2007
Carlisle School enrollment decline continues
Between 2001 and 2006 the Carlisle School enrollment dropped by 70 students, from 857 down to 787, according to the town's Annual Reports. Incoming classes are generally smaller than the older grades. For instance, this year grades 8 and 7 have between 90 and 103 students, while the kindergarten class has 69 pupils. Demographic studies have documented that Carlisle's population is aging — there are fewer women of child-bearing age, fewer children are being born to Carlisle families and fewer children are entering kindergarten (see "Changing town demographics will impact schools and taxes," March 9, Mosquito.)
As part of the Carlisle School's Master Plan completed last year, an enrollment study was done by the New England School Development Council (NESDC). Including growth for possible 40B housing, NESDC estimated the school population would stand at 789, or roughly today's level, by the fall of 2011, and might rise to 860 by 2015. However, extrapolating the current population trends without major new developments, the study predicted school enrollment falling to 660 by 2011 and to 601 students four years later.
Low birth rate through 2020?
Economist and former Selectman John Ballantine has studied Carlisle's demographics and his most recent estimates lie between the NESDC values. He sees the Carlisle School enrollment in the range of 700 to 730 in 2011, depending on 40B activity. Based on national population trends, he feels that the local birth rate will not increase until after 2020.
40B adds uncertainty
The effect of 40B on the school population is hard to predict. On the one hand, 40B developments may have many more housing units than standard subdivisions, but units may have restrictions that lessen the impact on the school. For example, the housing units in the Rocky Point 40B on Lowell Street have only two bedrooms, and the proposed Coventry Woods 40B on Concord Street may be age-restricted. Chapter 40B is a state law that allows developers to exceed local zoning restrictions and build high-density housing as long as 20-25% is affordable to those with low and moderate incomes. Once at least 10% of a town's housing stock is affordable, it can turn down future 40B developments. Roughly 2% of Carlisle's housing qualifies as affordable.
© 2007 The