By Mitch Evans
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the population figures for the Town of Bedford by the year 2020 would stand at around 14,200. At the June 9 School Committee meeting, NESDEC (New England School Development Council) presented their report on Demography and Enrollment projections for Bedford, and as of July 1, 2014 our town already has a population of 14,205.
This is probably no surprise to anyone. We have all seen the new houses being built, heard about the building permits being requested (89 permits already granted by March 31 of this year) and if you have school aged children, (particularly at Davis school), witnessed the addition of further classrooms to accommodate this extra enrollment.
But Bedford would not be a priority town for many young families if we were not doing things right. Online realty site Trulia.com has labeled Middlesex County as one of the top ten real estate markets in the U.S. Some families are moving into Bedford apartments or condos and just waiting for homes to come onto the market. With our schools configured by grade and not by neighborhood, parents don’t have to worry about buying in a particular area. We are in an ideal location for people who work in Cambridge, and our houses are currently cheaper than in neighboring Lexington. The success of our public schools continues to be a huge draw, and we are continuously voted in the top 100 best communities to live in the USA. As a result the median price of a single family home has doubled in the last 20 years to $580,000.
All great news. But, what about the long term impact on our schools?
The K-12 public school student population has risen by 230 students over the past 10 years, to 2,490 pupils in 2014-15, and this fall there may be an additional 40 students in grades K-8 (the equivalent of two extra classrooms). According to the NESDEC research, the kindergarten population will remain at 175 children for the foreseeable future and of course this larger cohort of children will be moving through our school system, arriving at Bedford High School in 2024/25.
The Superintendent’s office and the Bedford School Committee are working hard to stay ahead of the game–to predict school space requirements, reconfigure existing buildings and employ staff. But many of our schools are reaching recommended capacity.
*The number of Hanscom students enrolled at the high school is currently131. It is predicted that this number will remain fairly static in the coming years.
The number of children from our transient population, across all four schools, currently totals just 45.
At the June 9 meeting, Superintendent Jon Sills requested school committee approval to move ahead with a feasibility study of both Davis and Lane schools. This study will look at all the options available, including the re-purposing of existing space, enrollment projections, curriculum requirements, structural reviews and potential construction projects. It is proposed that this study be conducted in the fall of 2015 and completed by December 2015, in time for the capital planning process.
Sills will also be sharing the full NESDEC findings with the appropriate municipal committees and with the public. So please look out for these dates, if you would like more information.
If you are interested in following these issues, visit the Bedford Public Schools web page, at www.bedford.k12.ma.us then click on the School Committee to see agendas and minutes.
Live coverage of the most recent School Committee meeting is available on The Bedford Citizen’s main website, bedfordcitizen.wpengine.com. An archive of School Committee meetings is available by clicking on Bedford TV’s YouTube channel.