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October 29. 2013 10:56PM

Nashua student population falls by 209 students

NASHUA — The heads have all been counted and according to the official tally, enrollment in Nashua schools has dipped by 209 students.

There are 11,731 students in city schools, including pre-schools, this year, down from last year’s count of 11,940. The numbers show another decrease in a consistent decline in enrollment from 2003 when, according to the state Department of Education, Nashua had 13,487 students in schools throughout the district.

“Our declines in enrollment have been smaller than other districts,” said Superintendent Mark Conrad. “The numbers reflect changing birth rates along with perhaps not seeing as much migration to Nashua from other areas.”

This year’s count reflects a decrease of 80 students at elementary school level and 135 students in high school. Nashua’s middle school population grew by six students.

Among the elementary schools, Charlotte Avenue saw the biggest dip with 27 fewer students enrolled this year, followed by Bicentennial, which is down 25 students, and Fairgrounds, which saw enrollment drop by 24.

Nashua High School North’s enrollment dropped by 68 students, while South has 67 fewer students this year.

“Our elementary schools have not seen significant declines because of the availability of affordable rental housing in Nashua, which tends to attract young families,” said Conrad.

The Department of Education uses enrollment figures as part of its formula to calculate how to distribute state funding to local schools.

“If there’s a decline in student enrollment that results in a cut of our Adequate Education Grant, that does cause some financial concerns,” said Conrad.

And there’s no real silver lining in small student populations.

“A loss of students on the margins does not create the saving you might think,” said Conrad.

And because the dips in enrollment run throughout the entire district, schools are not gaining any real advantages in reducing class sizes.

According to the Department of Education, New Searles Elementary School had average class sizes of 22.5 students last year for grades one and two, well above the state average of 18 students.

And this year, enrollment ticked up by 9 students at New Searles.

Dr. Norman Crisp School saw the biggest increase in enrollment with a gain of 39 students followed by Mt. Pleasant Elementary School, which welcomed 27 more students this year.

There are more families opting to home school children but the numbers are still relatively small. In 2010, there were 145 home-school students.

Last year, that total rose to 172.

Conrad said there have also been some increases at private schools, but the steady decline is tied more to the state and region’s shifting demographics.


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