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Kindergarten enrollment on the rise in Bedford

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent

September 20. 2018 11:09PM




BEDFORD — With kindergarten enrollment increasing more than 40 students over what was originally projected, a proposal to add two more kindergarten teachers may be explored.

“Right now those classrooms are pretty crowded,” said Superintendent Mike Fournier, referring to kindergarten classes at Memorial Elementary School and Peter Woodbury Elementary School.

While families in those districts were offered the option of moving their kindergarten students to Riddle Brook Elementary School where the kindergarten class sizes are smaller, Fournier said it is his understanding none of the families agreed to the transfer, in part because of bus transportation issues.

As of Sept. 4, there were a total of 234 kindergarten students enrolled in the district, which is up from last year’s enrollment of 193 students, according to Fournier.

“The area that we have seen dramatic growth this summer that we didn’t anticipate — and it is always a hard prediction — is kindergarten,” Fournier told the school board last week.

Peter Woodbury has the most kindergarten students with 88 pupils enrolled, Riddle Brook has 77 kindergarteners and Memorial has 69.

At Memorial and Peter Woodbury, the kindergarten classrooms are at 23 students each.

“Those are pretty high. As you know, our guideline is 20, plus or minus two. We generally don’t like to be on the high end of those guidelines,” said Fournier.

Fournier is in the process of meeting with the principals at Memorial and Peter Woodbury to discuss various options for reducing the number of students in each kindergarten class.

He said it is possible that he will approach the school board next week requesting additional staffing for the kindergarten programs at those two elementary schools — possibly a request to add two part-time teaching positions.

If the school board offers support, an additional morning kindergarten class may be added at Memorial and Peter Woodbury, according to Fournier.

He said there are rooms available at each school for the change, as well as furniture. In addition, there could be funds in the school district’s budget for additional kindergarten materials, said Fournier.

District-wide enrollment is also slightly on the rise.

“We have 4,525 students compared to last year’s 4,445, which gives us an increase of 80 students in the district over last year’s numbers,” Fournier said, adding he will have a more comprehensive outlook on enrollment projections during Monday’s meeting.

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The high school currently has 1,532 students, with the freshman class the largest at about 400 students. Lurgio Middle School has 730 students enrolled between two grade levels, and McKelvie Middle School has 712 students, also among two grades.

Riddle Brook currently has the largest elementary school population with 577 students, with Peter Woodbury having 534 students and Memorial hosting 440 students; the Memorial number includes 63 preschool students.

“What I anticipate is that we are going to remain pretty steady over the next three years. We are not going to see any major drops or increases in enrollment,” said Fournier.

Other students in Bedford include 99 homeschoolers and 17 special education students who are currently placed out of district.



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