At Inaugural Consentino Building Meeting, Members Learn of Puzzling Enrollment Stats

Haverhill School Superintendent Margaret Marotta, standing, answers questions at the first meeting of the Consentino School Building Committee in February 2020 as Allison Heartquist, mayoral chief of staff, listens. (WHAV News file photograph.)

At the inaugural meeting of the Dr. Albert B. Consentino Building Committee yesterday, members learned perplexing statistics about student enrollment, while moving ahead with plans to hire a project manager.

School Superintendent Margaret Marotta told members the Massachusetts School Building Authority has produced enrollment projections. The figures show Haverhill’s student population has grown to 7,852 in grades kindergarten-12 and will continue growing for six or so years before declining. The superintendent noted, however, that even as Haverhill’s birth rate declines, there is a rising number of children entering kindergarten.

Marotta and attributed the growth to the “changing community” where 15% of the school population is “coming and going every year,” parents taking advantage of free kindergarten and students going back to public schools after attending private ones.

Other factors affecting enrollment are such decisions as Pentucket Regional School District to longer participate in “School Choice,” which formerly allowed Haverhill students to attend.

Student enrollment becomes a critical factor in the decision to repair, renovate or replace Consentino School. The state has agreed to participate in paying for the seating of 900 students. If more space is needed, Haverhill must pick up any additional incremental costs.

At a minimum, Marotta said, the school needs six more classrooms. Currently, two classrooms were converted from rooms used for other purposes. “It’s not ideal for student spaces,” she explained.

At the end of the month, the city will ask the state for permission to move into the feasibility study stage. Mayor James J. Fiorentini told members he would like to attend the School Building Authority’s meeting—likely in March—when the city plan is discussed. Assuming approval, the committee’s next step is to hire a state-required project manager.

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