GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 5, 2012

Schools show drop in numbers

But O'Maley gains 21 students, mostly from charter

By Steven Fletcher Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — While enrollment in Gloucester public schools continued declining this year, an increase in students attending O’Maley Middle School kept the slip to a minimum.

Overall, 3,027 pre-kindergartners to 12th-graders attend Gloucester’s public schools, down 64 schoolchildren from last year. Enrollment dropped across all eight schools, save Beeman and O’Maley. Superintendent Richard Safier said O’Maley’s designation as an “Innovation School” might have something to do with that.

Thirty-two students have joined the district through school choice. The district did not release data for students who left the district through school choice. Safier said the state would have a full tally of that in roughly three weeks.

“We don’t have numbers on who choiced out until the October reports are processed by the department,” Safier.

J.C. Considine, spokesman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said the state will have that data in mid-November.

While the school district’s enrollment fell this year, the drop is less steep than in previous years. From the 2010-2011 school year to the 2011-2012 school year, district enrollment fell from 3,202 students to 3,091 students. Much of that decline came from O’Maley and Gloucester High School, which shed 58 and 51 students, respectively, that year.

Safier said he hasn’t conducted a full analysis of the enrollment numbers. This year, though, broke the trend of steeper decline of the last few years.

O’Maley’s enrollment this year reverses that trend, with 21 students joining classes.

O’Maley, aside from one additional pupil at Beeman Elementary, was the only school in the district to add students this year. Enrollment at the middle school rose from 644 students to 665; the rise coincides with the school’s first year as a state-recognized “Innovation School.”

“The staff is very excited about this particular school year,” Safier said, “I’m hoping that’s kind of contagious.”

State designation aside, a good part of O’Maley’s uptick came from students who left the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School. More than 10 students from the charter school returned to O’Maley this year.

The charter school’s enrollment also fell from last year and its number on opening day. Last year the charter had 137 students enrolled as of Oct. 1. At the start of the 2012-2013 school year, 129 students were enrolled. On Oct. 1, 124 students were enrolled. Executive Director Tony Blackman said families left for a variety of reasons.

Most of those students, he said, went to Rockport public schools, and one returned to O’Maley Middle School. Blackman, who’s stepping down Oct. 20, said the school will budget accordingly. The charter is hosting an open house on Oct. 13.

“Just like the previous years, our enrollment will go up and down throughout the year,” said Blackman.

On an elementary school level, Veterans and West Parish each saw 20 fewer students this year than last October. Veterans fell from 220 students to 200 students and West Parish from 374 to 354. West Parish maintains the largest elementary school population in the district.

Beeman Elementary has 301 children enrolled this year, up from 300 last year.

Enrollment at Plum Cove fell from 220 to 211, East Gloucester fell from 263 to 254.

On the whole, the district has 57 fewer elementary school pupils than last year.

Gloucester High School also saw fewer students leave than in previous years. This year, enrollment fell from 994 to 976 students. The year before, enrollment dropped from 1,052.

Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or sfletcher@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.