In 2013, the Town of Andover commissioned Barry Bluestone, Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Planning at Northeastern University, to perform a demographic and economic analysis of Andover to illuminate future trends. Bluestone found that Andover was growing at a faster rate than other Greater Boston communities, in general, and forecast significantly more growth between 2020 and 2030. He also projected the aging of Andover’s population so that during that decade the number of Andover residents in their 70s would grow by 99.4% and the number in their 80s would grow by 61.0%. Over the coming decades, these individuals likely would downsize from larger single-family homes to other types of residences. He pointed out that “aging Boomers may wish to ‘age in place’ but not in their current homes” and projected that this phenomenon would open up a significant number of homes to new and younger families moving into Andover.
Working from the 2010 census, Cropper GIS conducted an analysis of householders’ ages in each of Andover’s elementary school attendance areas. The study found that, of the five schools, West Elementary School’s attendance area had the highest proportion of householders (27.7%) ages 65 years and older, while also having the lowest proportion of householders (45.1%) between the ages of 35 and 54. These findings mean that West Elementary is likely to see the most significant increase in enrollment as older individuals downsize.
Based on Bluestone’s analysis, coupled with significant home and apartment construction in Andover over the past decade, the school district pursued three demographic forecasts. MGT of America projected elementary K-5 student population reaching 3,025 within the next decade. A second analysis, by Cropper GIS, projected elementary enrollment reaching approximately 2,800. The third analysis, by MSBA, provided a ten-year projection averaging 2,939. The total K-5 capacity of Andover’s elementary schools as assessed in 2016 was 2,718, although that figure has since been reduced due to the conversion of space for programs for English language learners and students with special needs. None of the population analyses considered the projected increase in kindergarten enrollment once tuition for full-day kindergarten is eliminated, which will take place in 2020-21. Given that both the South Elementary and Sanborn Elementary facilities will last for several more decades and are already near or above capacity, West Elementary will need to be of sufficient size to absorb future enrollment increases throughout the district.
MSBA, which tends to be conservative in its enrollment projections, authorized West Elementary to be built for 925 students in order to address enrollment growth over the coming decade, understanding that the district would need to redraw elementary school attendance areas to address current and projected overcrowding at several of the schools. Although economic trends and the coronavirus pandemic have delayed the downsizing by senior citizens and the resulting movement of new families into the community, the rapid growth of apartment complexes and home construction in Andover combined with future downsizing trends will necessitate building a school of sufficient size to address future enrollment needs for a minimum of twenty to thirty years.