Overall enrollment in the Bedford Public Schools is projected to remain stable for the 2024-25 academic year.
According to a memorandum to the School Committee from School Superintendent Cliff Chuang and Finance Director Julie Kirrane, the total number of students is forecast at 2,552, seven fewer than the current 2,559.
There are more dramatic localized differences. Lane School is projected to decline from 571 to 532, propelled by a 35-student drop in third grade and the departing fifth grade. The Bedford High School Class of 2025 will be 221; this year there are 197 seniors. Grade 7 increases by 35, but grade 6 declines by 25.
Chuang told the School Committee at its meeting last week that enrollment projections are “the fundamental underpinnings of the budget process.”
He plans to present the proposed fiscal 2025 education budget at a December meeting.
There are no enrollment-driven staff changes on the elementary school horizon. According to the memorandum, “The preliminary analysis of elementary class sizes indicates that the staffing level to support K-5 instruction within the School Committee class size guideline will continue to be 48 sections,” the same as the current year.
For this academic year, the elementary staff was reduced by five in response to student population decline.
“The concerns of last year are not arising so far in the budget process,” Kirrane told the committee.
“We have known about the bubble for a while. It’s not a surprise,” said veteran committee member Sarah Scoville about the fluctuation.
“The middle school will have two grade levels under the (200-student) threshold with the addition of next year’s grade 6 projected at 196 students,” the document reads. “The high school is expected to continue with enrollment of more than 200 students in each grade for the next several years.”
Chuang and Kirrane also noted that “projecting enrollment for the upcoming year presents a greater than usual challenge due to the emergency homeless shelter that opened in Bedford in August. The projections do incorporate the increase, but the impact is mitigated due to our standard projection practice of using five-year rolling averages.”
Committee members were especially interested in a section of the memo detailing in- and out-migration.
During the past five years, 157 students transferred to in-state private schools, an annual average of about 31.
“Kids are not leaving in droves to go to private schools,” said committee Chair Dan Brosgol.
Transfers to home schooling over the same period totaled 26 with 18 of those coming during the two Covid years, 2020-2021 and 2021-2022.
New students during the first year of the pandemic totaled 97, which was 102 fewer than the previous year. There was a big decline in new kindergarteners. The current kindergarten population is 150.
Annual new high-school enrollment from Hanscom Air Force Base remains steady between 42 and 46, mostly freshmen, but covering all four grades.
Before the pandemic, there was a positive net migration, which is also the case for the current year (52). Over the three intervening years, net was negative (232), Chuang pointed out.
“The in-and-out metric is new here. You can see the Covid effect, though not dramatic,” Kirrane said.
She noted that there were 99 students transferring out of state in 2020-21, which may have had a connection to the coronavirus. The number for the current year is 36.