Cutting Haverhill Classroom Sizes Doesn’t Require Much Money; Room for 400 More

Haverhill School Committee. (WHAV News photograph.)

Reducing class sizes at some schools is not the costly problem some thought it would be, School Superintendent Margaret Marotta told Haverhill School Committee members Thursday night.

She conceded rearrangement of schools—and not school construction—is the solution to certain overcrowded classrooms.

“The real overcrowding was at the middle school level and, that in fact, in some of our schools we do have space. We have space in some of our elementary schools in some sections of the city,” the superintendent said.

As WHAV previously reported, Marotta’s plan is to convert the leased St. James Elementary School into classes for fourth to sixth graders. She explained, as she did during an earlier budget workshop, that the schools have 30 classrooms for each grade from kindergarten to fourth. At Albert B. Consentino School, for example, some classes have as many as 37 students in a class.

The problem begins at fifth grade when only 22 classes of each grade can be accommodated. What she calls her “rightsizing” plan could be approved by the School Committee as soon as April 11.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Mayor James J. Fiorentini pressed Marotta to emphasize there is no immediate need to build more schools than those being proposed. The superintendent agreed that with rearranging classes, up to another 400 students could enter without problems. “It was more about leveling the playing field than it was about more than widening the playing field,” she said.

Marotta said the hiring of only four additional teachers is anticipated and building renovations would be minimal since the buildings are already used for student purposes. Fiorentini gave his qualified endorsement.

“It makes much more sense than trying to build a series of new schools throughout the city, which may or may not be needed 10 or 20 years from now, and it makes much more sense than what I often hear from people which is to close the doors and not let anyone else into the City of Haverhill,” the mayor said.

Besides changes at St. James, the preliminary plan calls for children from Bartlett, Greenleaf and Crowell schools to be moved to Tilton, Silver Hill, Bradford, Pentucket Lake and Golden Hill schools. The current Therapeutic Education Assessment Center of Haverhill and the Haverhill Alternative School would leave St. James and be separated between two of the vacated smaller buildings. A future Alternative High School might also be placed in one of the unused schools.

School Committee members plan another work session Wednesday, April 10, to consider the details before tentatively voting April 11. Parents will be notified of any changes.

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