As school enrollments decline, Hull faces a big choice

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The MARS report uses 887 for the student enrollment figure as of May 2020, while the latest information from the State Department of Primary and Secondary Education for 2021 indicates that enrollment in Hull is 802. Officials said school enrollment was down this school year due to the pandemic. .

The report was commissioned by the Hull School Committee and was produced by four retired school superintendents from the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools, who studied the Hull District from November 2019 to April 2020 and have presented the results last spring.

Consideration of the report was delayed by the pandemic, but the Hull school committee recently formed a group of school and municipal representatives to dig deeper into the issue, further involve the community and recommend a plan of action.

“We want to do it right,” said Jennifer Fleming, school committee chair. “With the pandemic, we were very focused on getting the children back in person, which we were able to do [in part because of the space available to allow social distancing]. And this summer we will be focusing on what the return of students will look like in September. “

Fleming said there is no set date for deciding how to use the school district buildings, but “we won’t delay it forever; we need certainty.

The report does not rank the options for the district and presents several choices. Most involve the closing of Memorial Middle School and its reallocation in a variety of ways, including housing city offices now in dilapidated City Hall and four other locations around town.

College grades would be transferred to Hull High School or Jacobs Elementary School.

“The Hull situation is unusual in eastern Massachusetts,” said Stephen Hemman, former superintendent of the Narragansett Regional School District in Phillipston and Templeton and senior consultant on the Hull study. “But when you start heading west, there is a drop in enrollment, and also a few pockets on Cape Town. It is not unusual at all.

But while other school districts in less populated areas of the state are considering regionalization as a solution to declining enrollment, it’s not a likely option for Hull, Hemman said. Hull’s schools are far from neighboring communities, and the closest one – Cohasset – rejected the idea in 2010.

Hemman said that while his group did not recommend a choice, he suggested setting a date to make a decision, adding that any changes could take two years to implement.

The study found that Hull, a seaside town with a population of around 10,500 year-round residents, has fewer students due to a decline in the number of school-aged children – not because more students go to private school. The decline is the result of changing demographics, according to the report.

“Hull is now considered a place to retire and / or escape the hustle and bustle of the Boston area. In recent years, rather than attracting families of childbearing age, Hull has increasingly become a home for single retirees and professionals, ”the report says.

The study indicated that the three schools in Hull are in good condition.

Jacobs Elementary was built 60 years ago, remodeled 13 years ago and is operating at 53% capacity since it was designed for 785 students and has around 400 students, according to the report.

Memorial Middle School was built 80 years ago, renovated in 2002, and is operating at 48% capacity.

Hull high school is at 71% of its planned capacity, according to the report. Located at the end of the peninsula and with panoramic views of Boston Harbor, the high school is 64 years old and was last renovated and modified in 2002.

According to the MARS report, enrollment at the Hull school is expected to decline by 21.8% over the next 10 years, leaving the buildings even more empty.

School superintendent Judith Kuehn praised the report and said any changes should be aimed not only at saving money, but also providing the best education plan.

“Are our schools too empty? Can we offer more? she said issues that need to be addressed. “We have a lot to do. We have wasted an entire year because of COVID.”

City manager Philip Lemnios, who is on the new committee to study the MARS report, said using the Memorial Middle School for municipal offices would be “much more cost-effective for taxpayers than a complete renovation of the ‘existing town hall’ and would save the town money. on annual operating costs.

But “the final decision on consolidating schools lies solely with the school committee,” Lemnios said.

Johanna Seltz can be contacted at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.


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