Dist. 16 projecting 20 percent enrollment increase

Spring Lake Park School District 16 will have a projected 20 percent increase districtwide in enrollment in the next eight to 10 years.

Independent demographer Hazel Reinhardt, former state demographer now operating her own company Hazel Reinhardt Consulting Services, has shared her findings of a preliminary data study that she conducted for the district.

“The decade that we’re looking at is not going to look like the immediate past,” Reinhardt said at a school board work session earlier this year.

The increase in enrollment is because of a growing number of students living in the district. Open enrollment plays into the numbers, but Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg has emphasized in the past that the increase is not due in large to those students attending District 16 and yet living in another school district.

Reinhardt’s 10-year projections are larger than previously projected by the district.

“While this growth is exciting and something the vast majority of school districts in the metro area would be envious of, we will have to make short- and longer-term decisions to effectively address this growth,” Ronneberg said in a monthly column in The Life.

Currently, District 16 serves about 5,300 students from Spring Lake Park and parts of Blaine and Fridley.

Some of the district’s schools are now running at or near enrollment capacity.

Reinhardt noted the following as part of the district’s structural growth. Elementary grades are larger than upper grades. The average grade size in the district for 2011-12 was: 430 in grades K-3, 368 in grades 4-5, 367 in grades 6-8 and 338 in grades 9-12.

Reinhardt’s enrollment study is based on the district’s traditional schools and does not include early childhood, online learning, the Lighthouse program or learning alternatives students.

As a result of the preliminary study, in moving forward District 16 will consider the following:

• Elementary enrollment is projected to increase slightly and stabilize over the next 10 years.

• Northpoint and Woodcrest are at near capacity, while Park Terrace is under used.

• Westwood is operating at capacity, with an upsurge in enrollment projected in the next five years.

• Spring Lake Park High School, with a current enrollment of about 1,400 students, is projected to increase to 2,000 students by 2021.

Starting two years ago, the district began studying how to address its growing enrollment.

Instead of rushing into a change, such as redrawing boundaries or leasing facilities, district officials decided to step back and have further studies.

The district hired Reinhardt to conduct an in-depth demographic study projecting 10 years out.

Data from the studies will identify necessary changes needed for buildings, programs and boundaries, which would be implemented next fall, according to Ronneberg.

The focus will be on utilizing the space the district has, Ronneberg said.

The Spanish Immersion program is in its last year of being offered at Westwood Intermediate School because of lack of space at the school.

In addition to hiring Reinhardt, the district has retained the services of Wold Architects & Engineers for a facilities capacity and usage study.

The district’s design team will make a recommendation for facilities and programming modifications to address growing enrollment needs for fall 2013.

The school board will take action on the recommendations at a November or December 2012 meeting.

A draft of a long-term master facilities and programming plan will be presented to the school board in December, according to a district report.

For more information on the preliminary data study, visit www.springlakeparkschools.org. Type in facilities and programming study in the search space.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]