Supt. Mary Bourque said that for the first
time in decades, more students are leaving the Chelsea Public Schools (CPS)
than are coming in – an exodus of students that seems to be heading mostly to
“We’ve always had more students coming in
from certain communities than students leaving Chelsea for those communities,”
said Bourque this week. “Since July, we’re seeing the inverse. We have more
going out to the four communities of Lynn, Revere, Everett and Boston…A few
years ago, we were seeing an influx of students from outside of the country.
We’re seeing the reverse. We’re not seeing that influx from out of the country,
and we’re actually seeing the exodus of our families more to the North Shore
communities. The movement is more to the North Shore. I think it’s linked to
housing and affordability.”
According to CPS data, from July 1, 2019
through February 14 – 257 Chelsea students left for other communities in
Massachusetts. Of the 257, the largest pattern saw 29 going to Boston; 35 going
to Everett; 44 going to Lynn; and 34 going to Revere. Those are places that,
historically, Bourque said usually leak more students to Chelsea than Chelsea loses
to them. That trend has changed now.
The root cause could come for multiple
reasons, but Bourque said she firmly believes it all comes down to the drastic
rise in rents and housing costs in Chelsea.
“I do believe it’s the rising rental
properties around the community,” she said. “Right now, Chelsea is experiencing
it just like, if not more so, than other communities. We’re losing many, many
families. I’m seeing documents of many, many families going to Lynn in
particular. Lynn seems to be the most popular destination for families being
able to find rental properties. Secondarily, they are going to Revere, Everett
Bourque, who has studied student mobility in
depth during her career, said many studies have indicated over the years that
student population is a bellwether for the changes that are coming to a
In Chelsea, she said she believes this
latest trend in student population could be sounding an alarm for the community
to try to take action.
“This is definitely something we have to pay
attention to,” she said. “The demographics in our schools are telling of what
is coming to the community at-large. We’re the canary in the coal mine for
community shift. I see it as a positive though because we can look at it and
A consequence of that loss is that the CPS
budget is likely going to shrink due to the smaller enrollments.
“We already have an issue with the
Foundation Budget at the state level being broken, and it still needs to be
fixed,” she said. “We still need to advocate for that. At the same time, we
have a confounding situation where we’re losing student enrollment that results
in a natural decrease in staffing and resources due to that lower student
enrollment. The challenge will be keeping those two budgetary issues separate
and not allowing them to blend together. They are two different issues.”
Bourque said the situation reminds her of
what Somerville Public Schools went through some years ago as it gentrified on
the back of Cambridge’s successes. At one point, she said she recalled they had
somewhere around 6,000 students enrolled in the public schools, but as that
City changed, the numbers dwindled down to around 4,000. She said Chelsea
should fight to keep that from happening here.
Looking for a wave from
Chelsea has always had a reputation and a
practice of having open arms to refugees and new immigrant populations.
Now, as new immigrant families seem to be
migrating a bit towards the North Shore, Supt. Mary Bourque said they are
keeping an eye on Brazil and Venezuela as potential sources of incoming
Bourque said immigrant groups from crisis
areas of the world typically begin showing up in Chelsea schools about 10 to 15
months after the crisis in their countries.
With the recent political upheaval in
Venezuela with its leadership, she said the federal government is considering
giving Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelans. That, she said, could
result in more students arriving from that country soon.
“It will be interesting to wait and see if
we get an influx from Venezuela,” she said. “It usually happens 15 to 18 months
after a crisis. We’ll watch to see if this summer enrollments begin to come in
from that country.”
In Brazil, she said a down economy has
already brought a trickling of new Brazilian students to the district.
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