The number of students entering the ninth grade at the Westport Middle High School is expected to rise dramatically this coming year — a sign, the district's superintendent said, of an …
The number of students entering the ninth grade at the Westport Middle High School is expected to rise dramatically this coming year — a sign, the district's superintendent said, of an improving district that is more attractive to students.
This past year, 68 eighth graders stayed in the district and entered the ninth grade instead of leaving for out-of-district education at area vocational and other schools. Projections for the 2024 school year bring that number up to 102 — a 50 percent increase.
Superintendent Thomas Aubin told the school committee Thursday evening that he is thrilled to hear of the jump, after watching students leave the district for years.
"Enrollment to outside districts has gone down significantly," he said. "I think it has a lot to do with the extra sports we're offering, the extracurriculars, and the fact that we've got a very robust neo-technical program that's really starting to gain momentum."
That program, which uses augmented reality software and hardware to give students a taste of the various skills they'll need should they go into technical fields, shows great promise, he said. It differs from traditional vocational programs, which often teach students in very narrow areas. Neo-technical, he said, offers a more holistic approach that he believes is needed as technology evolves at a rapid pace.
"The trades have changed exponentially," he said. "Rather than pigeonhole yourself in one area (the program offers) a wide range of opportunities that students will be able to explore."
Software purchased to date includes automotive transportation, Internet technology, biotechnology and even astrophysics, he said.
Apart from the increased retention of ninth graders, Aubin said overall school enrollment numbers are also improving. Currently, the district has 1,446 students. But that number is expected to rise to approximately 1,458, a net gain of 12 students.