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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Newton superintendent makes sweeping recommendations to fight overcrowing

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Newton Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey M. Young
(Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)

NEWTON

Newton Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young last night released a sweeping set of recommendations to deal with the looming elementary school overcrowding crisis, including spending $1.2 million to buy eight modular classrooms for five overcrowded schools and reclaiming the former Carr School in Newtonville as the city's 16th elementary school.

"These schools are packed," Young said of the five schools that would receive modular classrooms. "There is no other flexibility there."

Young also recommended reclaiming the dedicated space given to some private programs based at the elementary schools, including Ploughshares, which runs preschool and after-school programs at the Lincoln-Eliot and Franklin schools. Other recommended measures included closing some school-choice zones to relieve pressure on the worst-crowded schools, including Horace Mann and Bowen.

Young also recommended that a special task force be appointed to study options at Bowen, which he described as the school facing the greatest enrollment pressure in the coming years.

Young said his recommendations were designed to avoid redistricting as much as possible and that younger siblings of current students would be grandfathered into slots at the same school.

The Carr currently houses the Newton Cultural Center and would need significant renovations to be brought up to current school building codes. Some school committee members last night also suggested that the Education Center on Walnut Street, which is itself a former school, also be considered for future conversion, with the school system's administrative offices moving to office space somewhere else in the city.

The measures, Young said, are designed to be a two-year stopgap while a comprehensive study of school space needs is conducted. Enrollment projections unveiled at last night's school committee meeting predict that the city's elementary school population will grow by 25 percent over the next 10 years.

To see Young's complete recommendations, click here.

-- Ralph Ranalli

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