If approved, the 96-unit affordable housing project off West Street could add another 80 students to the Medfield School System, said Superintendent of Schools Robert Maguire.
The Zoning Board of Appeals is expected to make that decision tonight.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we have to plan on a couple hundred thousand dollars," Maguire said, noting those figures are "back of the envelope with a lot more work to be done."
Gatehouse Group LLC, which proposes The Parc at Medfield, has suggested in its application that the project would add 60 students to the town's school system.
At a ZBA hearing in May, town officials said those numbers are likely low.
Maguire said the number appears to be a simple mathematical average taken from other Gatehouse host communities – namely Franklin, Plainville, Raynham, Stoughton, Walpole and Wareham.
He said the most recent data available from the state (2000) shows, “the state average of children per dwelling was .34 [but] in Medfield, the average at that time was .71, almost twice as much.”
Maguire said in May, “Basically, people are moving into the community for the schools, it is the real attraction to the town. I’m very concerned that these numbers need to be looked at with a little more detail specific to Medfield.”
After receiving additional information from the ZBA, Maguire said he thinks the projected number of students is still conservative.
"I wouldn't be surprised if the number pushes up into the range of maybe 80 kids, because I don't think there's a lot of rental property available in Medfield, and those people would be moving to Medfield for the same reason that many, many other people move to town -- for access to the schools," he said.
Maguire said it is difficult to calculate the impact to the schools without knowing the breakdown of how many students would enter which grades.
If the children are spread out evenly between the grades and schools, that would be easier for the district to absorb; however, if there are a large number of students entering a few particular grades, that could be a problem, Maguire said.
"In our experience, there's really more of a 60/40 split between elementary and high school," he said, noting that the influx is usually greater in the younger grades but this project is "a little bit of a different animal."
"Would someone look at a rental unit that's affordable, even if they have a high school student, if they're not in a less desirable educational community and they see this as an opportunity to get their kid in Medfield...maybe," Maguire said.
Maguire said factors that could affect the cost to the district would include:
- Class size - will 80 additional students max out class size and require additional classrooms?
- Teachers - will more teachers then be needed?
- Sections - would additional sections be needed at the middle and high school levels?
One expense that is clear, said Maguire, is the need to add another school bus because those additional 80 students would be in one area and not spread throughout the town.
"I think its very likely it would put a demand on the bus system and it would result in a cost...in the neighborhood of $50,000, probably a little in excess of that," Maguire said.
But the Zoning Board of Appeals needs to make their decision before the school department knows the real impact of the project.
"We're waiting to see what that is before we really try to push the pencil real hard on it but I think there's going to be cost," Maguire said.