New students are being assigned to Shawsheen School, which until now has been a choice K-2 school.

Word of Shawsheen School closing in a few years has sparked a low-enrollment problem for the school's incoming kindergarten class. But for three Andover elementary schools, that's exactly what was needed to help them keep their kindergarten class sizes at preferred levels.

Parents filing late registrations for their kindergarten-aged children at three public schools — Bancroft, High Plain and Sanborn elementary schools — are being referred to Shawsheen School, a choice school for grades K-2 that also houses a significant portion of Andover's pre-kindergarten student population.

"It's nice, because I have two half-day kindergartens and some of the schools only have one," said Moira O'Brien, Shawsheen School principal. "If they're feeling like they're full, they're sending them over here."

This development follows previous concerns that enrollments would be low at the school. Earlier in the year, the school reported that it had significantly fewer enrollments than it usual at that time of the year, likely caused by the news that a new Bancroft Elementary School is being built and, eventually, is expected to cause the closing of the school.

"I just had a lady email me and say she bought a house, and that the lady who sold them the house said we are closing at the end of the year," O'Brien said.

With the new Bancroft Elementary School not expected to carry its full 680-student capacity until the 2014-15 academic school year, any student coming into the school this year would complete all three years of school at Shawsheen. The town is not expecting to redistrict until the students have left Shawsheen School anyway.

Taking on other school's late registrations is helping fill those low-enrolled sections, O'Brien said.

""We bus (students) all over town, so we can take them from any town school," O'Brien said. "We've always taken kids from the other schools, because we're the choice school."

Francine Goldstein, Bancroft Elementary School principal, said sending students to Shawsheen helps balance new enrollments throughout the town.

"We're trying to keep the kindergarten numbers at reasonable numbers," Goldstein said. "So in order to do that, if our numbers are getting high, we suggest to some parents that they go to Shawsheen because they have room."

Elementary school-age students who come from one area of town and are transported to another school, specifically Shawsheen School, are not charged anything extra for transportation so long as they're in the elementary school system, O'Brien said.

"That's the way it is in most districts. You go where there is room," O'Brien said. "It's not a new idea. You have got to level the classes to keep the classes as small as possible."

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For feedback on this story, or for other story-related inquiries, please email dluca@andovertownsman.com.

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