MERRIMACK — School officials say student enrollment is on the rise and is expected to continue increasing for at least the next five years.

For most of the past decade, the number of students in the school district has decreased, but that trend has come to a halt, said Superintendent Mark McLaughlin.

Merrimack had its highest enrollment during the 2008-2009 school year when about 4,500 students attended the local schools. Enrollment then went on the decline, dipping to its lowest number of students at 3,680 in the 2016-2017 school year. Enrollment went up the following year to 3,755, and again last year it increased to 3,789. As of Oct. 1, enrollment in Merrimack was at 3,915 students, according to McLaughlin.

The district has been working with the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) on future enrollment projections, which indicate that enrollment will likely increase by 30 to 50 students each year for the next couple years — up to five years, he said.

This projection takes into account new housing projects that are in the works, said school officials.

“Now our number is just shy of 4,000, and I think that is a really good thing,” said McLaughlin, adding that people are recognizing the value of the school district and are choosing Merrimack as the town in which to raise their families.

The increase in student enrollment is occurring despite the decrease in birth rates in Merrimack, he said.

“There are cycles,” Matt Shevenell, assistant superintendent, said of enrollment numbers. It is clear the district is currently in the up cycle, he said.

The enrollment projections calculated by NESDEC are parallel to internal enrollment projections, he said.

“Merrimack is an attractive town because of the services that are here,” he said.

With an increase in student enrollment, McLaughlin emphasized the district’s commitment to keeping class sizes small.

For grades one and two, he said there are about 18 or 19 students per class compared to grades three and four where there are about 20 students per class. In grades five through eight there are closer to 24 students per class, and for grades nine through 12, there are an average of 25 to 26 students per class.

“As you can see, we are in line with the state’s requirements around the minimum standards,” said McLaughlin.

It is important for Merrimack to welcome all students, he said, adding the district works to provide teachers with the flexibility to keep their class sizes at a reasonable level while also adapting to student needs and encouraging individualized instruction.


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