In Barrington, projections show dramatic student population drop-off

BHS sign

BHS sign

In Oct. 2012, approximately 3,327 students attended Barrington public schools.

But according to some projections, that figure could drop by as much as 18 percent in the next 10 years.

During a school committee meeting on Thursday night, Jan. 17 which focused on the upcoming budget, officials learned that the New England School Development Council forecasted a steep drop-off in student population in Barrington in the next decade.

The projections showed that the current student population could fall by about 600 students by the year 2022.

Ron Tarro, the director of finance for the school department, cautioned school committee members about the numbers.

“It’s not reliable,” Mr. Tarro said to committee members. He continued: “If that happened, we’d potentially be looking at closing a school.”

Mr. Tarro said the student population projections for the next three or four years were much more reliable, and added that there were a number of factors that could alter the long-term projections.

He said the construction of a new middle school — district officials are currently planning for the replacement or renovation of the middle school — could result in a significant increase in student population.

“So many things could change,” Mr. Tarro said in a follow-up interview. “It’s really not a number that you can rely on.”

Mr. Tarro said NESDEC examines birth rates and other factors while determining student population projections.

School committee members asked Mr. Tarro if prior projections by NESDEC had held true. They also requested data mapping historic trends for student population in Barrington.

Shifts in student enrollment could result in staffing changes, said officials. Mr. Tarro said even shifts in different schools could mean the loss or addition of a full-time educator. For example, there are currently five third grade teachers at Nayatt School, but projections show a drop-off in third grade students at that school next year. Meanwhile, the first grade class of students at Sowams School is larger than expected, and officials may need to add a second grade teacher at that school next year.

Mr. Tarro said the district could conceivably shift a teacher from Nayatt to Sowams to accommodate the situation.

“If there needs to be a shift in human capital to address those needs, we’ll do that,” he said.

The budget

School officials also discussed other areas of the upcoming budget. According to a presentation from Mr. Tarro, pension rates for teachers will increase from 14.01 percent to 14.86 percent, while rates for non-certified staff will increase from 8.16 percent to 8.92 percent.

Mr. Tarro said the potential increase in the budget from medical insurance and pension contributions alone could stand to be more than $500,000.

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