Future, Past, and Present

Since we are interested in what our future holds, I wanted to share this information with everyone. It helps to learn about the past and understand the present to prepare for the future. Leading up to the Annual Town Meeting, I went to Richards Memorial Library to look through Annual Town Reports from previous years as the town site only has years 2006 through 2014 online. Since I didn’t have time to look through all Annual Town Reports, I focused on years that would have insight into recommendations for new schools, etc. The earliest Annual Town Report available was 1961. I’m sharing this information because some people asked about the history of our School Department. I reviewed the Annual Reports for years: 1961, 1966, 1972, 1973, 1985, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2000. I’m sharing the following because they aren’t accessible online. It helps to share information with those who are curious and want to assist in thinking of ways to move forward. I believe that we learn a lot from our past to ensure we take the best steps towards our future.

Here are some notes from the School Department in the annual reports listed above:

1961

Students of the John Woodcock School used 5 classrooms at Grace Episcopal Church but were able to eventually return to their school. The new junior high school was completed and this building is now Amvet Boulevard School. It denotes that the John Woodcock School is the oldest school in town.

1966

Space was rented for elementary students at various churches as it had previously. It states that the Joseph W. Martin, Jr. School should open in September of 1967. It mentions the need for a new high school for no less than 1200 students at a projected cost of $3,900,000. The first grade enrollment is 300 students.

1972

Double sessions were in place for grades 6, 7 and 8. The High School had an extended day to accommodate 2 overlapping sessions. Kindergarten students remained in classrooms rented from churches in our community. A School Needs Building Committee was formed. The construction began for the new high school in spring of 1972. The population of high school students was 1070.

1973

A new high school opened which ended the need for double and extended day sessions. June 21, 1971 by a vote of 627 to 112, the plans were approved for a 1400 student high school with costs estimated to be $6,986,000.

It mentions an official redistricting of students as the former Junior High School, Amvet Blvd. School, became an elementary school. The former high school became a Junior High School but needed some refurbishing as the building was completed in 1918.

It states, “At the close of 1973, the School Building Needs Subcommittee was investigating conjointly with the Planning Board on the suitability and availability of land sites in North Attleboro for future building needs. Only by such foresight in planning can the Town of North Attleboro hope to avoid further crises in providing sufficient classrooms for the projected growth in school enrollment.

1985

“It has been noted annually in this report for a half dozen years that the North Attleboro Public Schools has not received the funding that is necessary to reach a per pupil expenditure that is at least at 85% of the state average. It is thus stated again that the Town of North Attleboro will be penalized by existing legislation if that level of expenditure is not reached by 1989. The implications for enforced spending and/or reduced reimbursement are significant and ominous. It would be most unfortunate if this perennial warning were considered a ‘cry of wolf,’ and nothing were done to heed it.”

As another side note, grades 9 through 12 had 1,047 students.

1991

State aid dropped 14.9% and there was minimal new growth in town, so the school department had to cut spending for the first time in many years. “During the 1990-91 school year, the town budgeted $3,757 per pupil and for the 1991-92 school year that figure dropped to $3,455. Such a cut necessitated the trimming of 15.5 full time staff.” Instrumental music was dropped at the Elementary and Junior High schools. An athletic fee is instituted.

“In the Fall of 1991, the School Committee voted to bring to fruition the results of 3 years of study regarding the future building needs of the Schools. Projecting an enrollment growth and a substantial need for additional classroom space at the K-8 level and taking into consideration the favorable position of the Town relative to state reimbursement (72%), the School Committee requested approval from the RTM to move ahead with the building of a 1200 student middle school. The RTM, citing concerns about the economy and questioning enrollment projections and the cost of a new facility, recommended that the building need-issue be studied further by an appointed Building Committee.”

Grades 9 through 12 had 912 students, and the town’s total enrollment was 3,721 students.

1992

“1992 was a year of ‘doing more with less’ in the North Attleborough Public Schools.” The budget was decreased but enrollment increased by over 100 students. For Grades 1 through 6, class sizes increased to an average of 25 students from 22.9 students in 1989. Athletic fees increased from $35 to $50. Increased enrollment meant single portable classrooms were added to Amvet Blvd. and Falls Schools. An Apple computer was provided to each K-6 classroom.

“If we chose not to allow class size to increase, additional portable classrooms will need to be constructed for the short term, for the long term, pressure will increase to provide an additional 25 to 29 elementary classrooms, related support services space, and a renovated Junior High School. The latter long term space solution seems to be on track at the School Building Committee has recently awarded a design contract…with the expectation that a formal plan will be brought to a Special Town Meeting in the Spring of 1993.”

“[G]iven the community’s small tax base, leveled new growth, the negative free cash position of the town, increasing fixed costs, the projection of level funding of state aid, and the limits of Proposition 2 ½, there is no money on the horizon to meet the growing needs of the school system. Unless there is a Proposition 2 ½ override or a major windfall from the sate, North Attleborough will have increasing difficulty maintaining the high quality of education that it has come to expect.”

“It is something we cannot be cynical about for cynicism leads to pessimism, negativism, and corruption of human spirit. Our dedication to and our optimism regarding the importance and effectiveness of education must be maintained.”

Grades 9 through 12 had 897 students, and the town’s total enrollment was 3,848 students.

1996

For the first time, the School Committee voted to develop a Strategic Plan. A consultant was hired for this effort and input was received from citizens, staff and the business community.

In September, Martin School’s addition was fully functional. A major redistricting effort occurred as over 200 students transferred to Martin School. Overcrowding was an issue at the elementary level, so hallways, lavatories foyers, stages and closets began serving as substitute classrooms. Allen Avenue School was approved to receive a double unit portable classroom were overcrowding was an big issue. Final state aid was approved for a new middle school. School Councils were established in every school in the state.

Grades 9 through 12 had 962 students, and the town’s total enrollment was 4,405 students.

1997

A Strategic Plan was developed. Site preparation began in 1996 for the new middle school, and building began in 1997. It opened for the start of the school year in 1998.

“It was decided that it would be in the best interest to do the following: 1) Move to create a K to 5 system in all elementary schools; 2) expand the current School Street Elementary School to a K to 5 configuration and relocate it in the current Junior High School; 3) reopen the School Street building as a Pre-School center; 4) relocate the Central Office to the Woodcock School building; and 5) return space currently used for the School Administration to the High School for needed classroom use.”

An increase in the budget allowed the purchase of textbooks that were long overdue and used to hire teacher aides to assist with overcrowded classrooms.

1998

A new 175,000 square-foot school opened to 1,084 middle school students. The former Junior High School was renamed Community School. The School Street School was renovated to become an Early Learning Center. The Superintendent’s Office moved into the John Woodcock School from the high school which allowed space for 4 classrooms in the high school. Class size for Grades K-5 is an average of 21 students. A next phase of a Strategic Plan was established with Action Teams.

“[T]he town ranks very low statewide in spending per pupil… Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, over 40 instructional aides who were hired in 1997, were let go in September, 1998.”

A needs-based budget request of $26.1 million was shared to the School Committee that came about from a “grass-roots” process with each principal and School Council. “If our students are to continue to score above the state average, we need a budget that is much closer to the State’s average per pupil expenditure.”

“It is crucial that we complete the necessary repairs and renovations to our school buildings as soon as possible so that we protect these assets and prevent minor problems from becoming major ones.”

“When a realtor talks about North Attleborough Public Schools to a family or a business thinking of moving here, we all want them to continue to say that the schools are excellent.”

Grades 9 through 12 had 1,074 students, and the town’s total enrollment was 4,522 students.

2000

A School Space Needs Committee was established. Its purpose was to “analyze the Town of North Attleborough’s school space needs, as they relate to:

1. projected student enrollment
2. present classroom availability and usage
3. potential construction of new school facilities
4. potentional renovation of and/or additions to present school facilities
5. existing documented building capital improvement needs
6. funding strategies for potential construction/renovation and capital improvement projects”

“The conversion of the Woodcock School to an administrative setting, a project started in 1998, moved ahead in 2000 and nears completion.” Engineering analyses were completed with work to begin in 2001 for the High School, Early Learning Center, and Amvet Blvd. School.

“The year 2000 included an important $4.9 million override vote for the citizens of North Attleborough. The School Department sought support for a $3.9 million revenue increase in school spending for FY 01… Approximately two million dollars of those funds would have allowed for the addition of eighty-seven new staff members to the District. The override was defeated in April of 2000.”

2006 through 2014

Annual Reports found here: http://www.nattleboro.com/annual-town-reports

Enrollment Data

Please visit the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) to view our district’s enrollment data (information is available from 1994 to Present): http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/student.aspx…