Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Franklin Issue on the 2020 'Watch List': School District Issues

With almost half of the Franklin budget covering the operation of our schools, the Superintendent Sara Ahern, the School Dept and ultimately, the School Committee, have their hands full this year.

The School Committee with 5 new members is really going to be challenged. School Start Time is on 'pause' as previously covered but, the FY 2021 budget, and the Davis Thayer issue (which in and of itself has multiple layers) will not be easy.

Fortunately, extra time is already added to the next two school committee meetings scheduled to allow for background info to be shared with the members in a workshop format. Jan 14 to cover the budget and Jan 28 to cover student services.

Simply put, the Davis Thayer issue is complex. The student population demographic numbers are expected sometime this month. We know the student population has declined from over 6,000 to 5,086 (as of Nov 30, 2019). With the planned and anticipated growth in the community, what does that mean for the student population for the school district? How does the charter school expansion play in that (if at all).

Once that number (or set of numbers is available), the other side of the equation comes to play. How do we service the students? That is, what does the existing physical capacity hold for the current educational demands of our students? We know for example that the high school was built for 1600 and is servicing 1754 (same date as student enrollment above). 

However, each of the middle schools and elementary schools were built or renovated at different times over the past. The educational requirement they were built for are different from what is required now.  What is the 'real' capacity of our school buildings? This study is also set to be done by an outside firm early this year. 

Then the real work begins: What do the two sets of numbers say? Are we under capacity? or over capacity, or somewhere in between? How do we decide what to do? Closing Thayer would mean a re-districting and that will be an involved process, not to be done quickly.

All this to be overseen by the new School Committee. They are a talented and diverse bunch of Franklin residents. They can not do this alone.

Fortunately, the School Committee will be informed by Superintendent Sara Ahern and her very talented Central Office, principals, and other educational personnel throughout the district.

They will all need our support, encouragement, and involvement. 

The adage goes: you can be part of the problem, or part of the solution! I recommend getting involved in the discussion (aside from Facebook!) to be part of the solution. 


  • Get to a meeting
  • Talk with members of the School Committee, your School Principals, and Superintendent Sara Ahern
  • Have a civil conversation about one or more of these issues, together we can, and must, find a solution

The enrollment numbers as of November 2019

Franklin Issue on the 2020 'Watch List': School District Issues
Franklin Issue on the 2020 'Watch List': School District Issues

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