Bourne enrollment may get boost from School Choice, military students

Paul Gately
Special to the Cape Cod Times

BOURNE — Enrollment in Bourne Public Schools is generally level this year, but system administrators say the School Choice program and military families may boost student numbers next year as efforts continue to retain students.

The district now comprises 1,614 students; up from 1,577 last October. There are 106 students from other districts who attend school in town through the School Choice option, up a few from October. Summer enrollment in that program may boost those numbers, Superintendent Kerri Anne Quinlan-Zhou advised the School Committee on June 1.

Coast Guard and military transfers at Joint Base Cape Cod may resume this summer and new families might increase the district’s enrollment numbers. She said there were 179 military dependents in Bourne classrooms during the 2017-18 school year versus 111 this academic year.

Kerri Anne Quinlan-Zhou

Quinlan-Zhou is investigating demographic trends spanning five years. There is a decline in the number of kids coming to the system as well a decline in home-schooled youngsters.

 “And we’re seeing a decline in the number of students choosing to go to charter (schools),” she said. “We have a similar trend in students choosing vocational; that’s obviously at the high school level and that has to do with their increasing their number of seats.”

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Quinlan-Zhou said she is happy to report “that we’re steadily increasing and that’s good news, though it’s small increases.”

Reasons for low enrollment

School Committee Chairman Emily Berry, however, expressed concern about data showing only 101 students in first grade.

The low enrollment stems from community demographics, not the economy. In addition, there are housing availability issues for families and a lack of women of child-bearing ages, Quinlan-Zhou said.

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“We’re working on attracting more School Choice students and working to keep grade 8 students matriculating up to the ninth grade,” she said, adding there is little the district can do to boost lower-elementary grade enrollment.

Quinlan-Zhou assured the School Committee the district would not allow incoming students to adversely affect favorable class sizes or the fiscal 2023 budget approved in May.