Child Confused Belmont Schools

As I’ve talked to people about the growth that’s flooding in around us, crowding in Belmont schools keeps coming up. Winston is still a couple years off from school, but with my curiosity aroused, I decided to take a look. Using data from the Department of Public Instruction’s scorecard data site, I was able to pull this table together:

SchoolInstructional CapacityEnrollment% Full
Belmont Central619726117%
Belmont Middle70769999%
Catawba Heights41133481%
JB Page Primary339345102%
North Belmont Elem.41137591%
South Point High1061101996%
All Belmont Schools3548349899%

The % Full column is just a measure of how large the enrollment at each school is relative to its instructional capacity, which (according to the Gazette) is the “number of available seats in regular classrooms within a school”. There is also some allowance for things like the gym, the band room, etc. The grand total line at the bottom adds up the total enrollment and capacity numbers across all schools in Belmont.

Using that as our gauge of how many students a school can reasonably teach, those numbers are pretty startling. You already have two schools (Belmont Central and JB Page) that are over 100% and another two that are within spitting distance of full capacity (Belmont Middle and South Point High). North Belmont and Catawba Heights have room for about another 100 students – which sounds like a lot until you consider that another project like the Morris development would completely overwhelm those schools.

For a 325-unit development like the Morris, if we use the Census average of 0.58 children (under 18) per household, that gives us 189 children in just that one development that then have to be absorbed by some combination of Page & Belmont Central, Belmont Middle, and South Point – all schools that are already at or near capacity. Fortunately, by the time some of the younger ones hit middle school, the new Belmont Middle should be up and running (with a new capacity of around 1000). So, for the three years they’re in middle school, they’ll be fine. It’s just the other 10 years of K-8 and 9-12 that might be a little rough.

Schools are just one example of the many long-term impacts that come with any development. There are many other side-effects to consider. This is why we need to be thoughtful and deliberate about how we approach growth. For a lot of these projects, you often only get one shot to get it right.