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Merrimack Valley

January 31, 2013

$225k study will quantify, answer space woes

ANDOVER — A $225,000 request at Town Meeting seeks to pave the way for the town to resolve school overcrowding, with the town’s high school already overloaded and elementary schools not far from it.

The request, known formally as the “School Facility Space Needs Study” in the annual Town Meeting warrant, will study space woes throughout the town’s elementary school, high school and preschool populations, according to school Superintendent Marinel McGrath.

The article will operate in a three-fold manner, McGrath said. First, it will study space use at the high school and create a conceptual design for short- and long-term space options to create additional classrooms.

Then, the money will be used to address the need for an Early Childhood Center (ECC) to house all of the town’s pre-kindergarten students. Currently, most of the town’s pre-K children are at Shawsheen School, which will close soon after the completion of the Bancroft Elementary School project.

Lastly, the money will be used to study possibilities for elementary school expansion as student enrollment is expected to increase throughout the district.

Even with the new Bancroft Elementary School expected to take on 200 more students than the current building, using current data, “the elementary population following the opening of the new Bancroft School will be at 100 percent capacity,” McGrath said.

But in a way, there’s a greater need at Andover High School. There, the overcrowding is a problem today, not one that’s the horizon.

“Student enrollment across the district has increased over the past 10 years, and overcrowding at Andover High School is a major concern,” McGrath said.

The building was built for around 1,600 students. Today, it has 1,816 enrollments — and that number is expected to climb gradually, as previous projections have shown.

“We have terrific overcrowding in the classes,” Principal Chris Lord said. “Our number one goal in the next year is personalization, and we’re going to be reducing class sizes. We’re going to be struggling to find places to put students and a teacher.”

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