District 16 starts facility planning study

Spring Lake Park District 16 is positioning for a 10-year facilities plan and demographic study.

Jeff Ronneberg

Jeff Ronneberg

Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg said the district, in view of increasing enrollment, will transition from a boundaries and program study to creating a 10-year facilities plan.

Ronneberg made his comments during a March 6 school board meeting in an update report to the board.

The district administration and staff have been studying boundaries and programs for the last 18 months to address growing enrollment in the schools.

District 16 now has 1,000 more students enrolled than in the early 2000s, Ronneberg said.

“That’s a 20 percent enrollment increase and puts Spring Lake Park in the top 10 percent of districts for enrollment in the state,” he said.

The kindergarten class this year has the largest enrollment numbers in the history of the district at 470 students.

Should the K-4 grades progress at its current student enrollment rate, it would put class levels at 500 by the time they reach high school, Ronneberg said.

The district serves nearly 5,100 students in Spring Lake Park and parts of Blaine and Fridley.

Ronneberg asserted that the increase in enrollment is because of a growing number of students living in the district and not because of open enrollment students.

Still, the superintendent said he would rather be dealing with enrollment management than having to address declining enrollment, which would result in declining state revenues that follow students and further result in staff reductions.

In answer to the growing enrollment, starting after spring break (around March 19) the district will work with Wold Architects to examine all K-12 facilities in phase one of a 10-year facilities study. The cost for Wold’s services is $5,000 and will be funded through general fund dollars, according to Amy Schultz, District 16’s business manager.

The study with Wold is slated to be completed by the end of April.

A facilities study was last done in 2004 in preparation for passage of the 2006 facilities improvement bond.

Additionally, the district has hired Hazel Reinhardt, former state demographer, to conduct a demographic study of the district projecting 10 years out. The study is anticipated to be completed in April. Reinhardt’s fees will be determined when the district meets with her in a few weeks, according to Schultz.

In May, the district will review data and determine the next phase of study.

Possibilities could be a boundary change or “doing something different at facilities,” Ronneberg said.

Mention has been made in past workshop meetings of expanding Park Terrace by about six classrooms.

The target for the studies will be to identify any necessary changes to buildings, programs and boundaries, which would be implemented in fall of 2013, Ronneberg said.

“The focus will be on utilizing the space we have,” Ronneberg said.

In other business, Ronneberg said the district is undergoing a search to find top candidates to fill the director position of the district’s Learning Alternatives Community School. Bill Sommers, who is currently heading the school, announced earlier this year he will be retiring at the end of the school year.

According to Ronneberg, the Panther Foundation’s successful gala last month at the Tournament Players Club in Blaine raised more than $100,000 to be used for special projects and programs to enrich education for District 16 students.

Elyse Kaner is at elyse.kaner@ecm-inc.com

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