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Local News

February 11, 2013

Beverly cites ‘severe overcrowding’ as impetus for new middle school

BEVERLY — An influx of more than 200 students has prompted officials to cite “severe overcrowding” as a reason the city needs state funding to build a new middle school.

Total enrollment in all of the district’s public schools was up to 4,506 students as of October, an increase of 214 students, or 5 percent, over the previous school year, according to officials.

The School Committee and City Council have both voted to authorize the city to list “elimination of existing severe overcrowding” as a reason for a new school in its second application to the Massachusetts School Building Authority seeking funding.

That reason would presumably boost Beverly’s chances of getting money from the MSBA because overcrowding is No. 2 on the list of priorities the agency must use, by law, to approve projects for funding.

Last year the city cited the obsolescence of the current Briscoe Middle School, Briscoe, which is next-to-last on the MSBA’s list of eight priorities for a building project. This year officials are using both the overcrowding and obsolescence priorities.

School Commitee President Maria Decker said overcrowding has forced the district to rent four classrooms from the North Shore Education Consortium on Sohier Road for preschool classes, while Briscoe Middle School, which has about 1,000 students, is making use of “every available space.”

Total enrollment is projected to grow by another 100 students or more next year, she said.

“Our numbers are growing steadily at all levels,” Decker said.

Decker said Beverly has seen an increase in school choice students from other communities, in special education students from Beverly moving back from out-of-district placements, in Beverly students choosing the high school over private or parochial schools, and in preschool and kindergarten students. The high school enrollment is up 35 over last year.

Decker said the district is becoming more attractive due to its innovative programs, including laptops for all high school students and science specialists in the elementary schools, and the newly built high school. Beverly High was recently accorded Level 1 status, the top status granted by the state, for the first time since 2007.

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