We strongly support the Northland project, a model mixed-use community offering much needed housing, ample green space, and cutting-edge sustainability. As former Newton School Committee members, we are especially focused on the impact of development on the schools and are writing to address concerns about school capacity.

After years of steady growth, Newton Public Schools projects a decrease of 277 elementary school students over the next five years and continuing declines after that. These projections take into account additional children from new developments including Austin Street, Washington Place and apartments proposed at Northland.

As the bulge from elementary growth passes through the system, high school space will continue to be tight, but ultimately enrollment will decline as incoming Kindergarten classes continue to be smaller than graduating senior classes.

Declining enrollments — due to lower birth rates, older residents who “age-in-place,” and housing prices beyond the reach of many young families — are a factor across the nation, and here in Newton.

It is estimated that 165 new school age children living at Northland would attend one of three schools—Countryside, Brown, and Newton South. Countryside currently has 413 students, and utilizes 19 of 20 classrooms. Next year it is projected to need 18 of the 20 rooms. Countryside is slated for renovation/replacement and expansion which would help accommodate the new students from Northland.

A final point. Families with children are a protected class under fair housing laws. Communities cannot make zoning and permitting decisions based on a desire to restrict the number of families with children. As members of a welcoming community, we look forward to meeting, and embracing, our new neighbors at Northland.

— Claire Sokoloff, Oxford Road, Newton Center

— Susie Heyman, Varick Road, Waban

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