As new numbers announced Thursday show student enrollment has again jumped sharply in Brookline, the School Committee unanimously approved its plan to expand multiple elementary schools and the high school.
The plan, which closely resembles the recommendations of a special committee known as B-SPACE that examined how to accommodate Brookline’s years of growing student population, could cost between $150 to $300 million, according to school officials.
But expanding multiple schools and staffing them will likely require at least one Proposition 2 ½ override that would have to be approved by voters and the town launched another special committee this week that will look at the potential cost to taxpayers.
School Committee member Rebecca Stone called the expansion plan approved Thursday as a positive step that will create a brighter future for Brookline.
“Most importantly, it creates space that will relieve crowding at schools,” Stone said at the committee's meeting in Town Hall Thursday night.
The plan approved will maximize the expansion of the district’s Devotion and Driscoll schools, move forward with the addition of several modular units at the Lawrence School and spend the current school year studying expanding Brookline High School. When those expansions are completed, the Pierce School will be either enlarged or replaced.
The vote Thursday came shortly after Superintendent of Schools Bill Lupini reported that the district’s pre-Kindergarten through 12 grade enrollment has jumped from 7,141 in the 2012-2013 school year to a total of 7,369 this fall.
That total is up by about 23 percent from the 5,984 pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students the district had in the 2004-2005 school year.
Through the years, the sharpest increase has been in the early grades, and the trend continued this year as Lupini reported there are 626 students in this year’s Kindergarten class—though that number is down from last year’s record number of 666. The average size of Kindergarten classes in the decade leading up to 2004 was between 420 to 440 students.
The school district has already expanded the Runkle and Heath Kindergarten through 8th grade schools in recent years to try and keep up with the growth.
But the district anticipates needing classroom space for another 600 students in the Kindergarten through 8th grade schools by 2017. By 2022, the district expects enrollment will have increased at Brookline High School by 600 students, as well.
School Committee member Helen Charlupski said the school district will aim to open the Devotion School renovation by September of 2017 and open the Driscoll School expansion by September of 2018.
Following the vote Thursday, the town will now present the plan to the Massachusetts School Building Authority in hopes that the state will help support the project.
School Committee Chairman Alan Morse said the town will meet with state officials Friday.