District 16 narrows options for dealing with lack of space

Options to solve a lack of space for a projected 20 percent increase in enrollment at Spring Lake Park District 16 have been narrowed to three possibilities.

Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg shared the options with board members at an Oct. 30 school board work session.

The board’s consensus pointed to option A, selected from three choices narrowed from more than 12, as the most favorable option. No action was taken. The board will vote on an option at its Dec. 18 school board meeting.

The options are part of the district’s PreK-12 master facilities and programming study nearing completion.

Changes in the district are needed to not only manage current and future growth (some of the schools are operating at near or capacity levels), but to find space to house the Spanish Immersion Program. The program, now housed at Westwood Intermediate, currently serves K-3 students, with plans of adding a grade level per year up to grade five.

But Westwood doesn’t have enough space for the growing program. The district’s Lighthouse Program for gifted children and the Learning Alternatives Community School, housed in the old section of the high school, is also outgrowing its space.

The proposed changes are geared to use district facilities more effectively, to improve balance of student demographics and to more effectively meet student needs and use of resources.

The options involve boundary changes, something the district had anticipated and studied since before Northpoint Elementary School first opened its doors in 2008.

Demographer Hazel Reinhardt of Hazel Reinhardt Consulting, hired by the district, projected in a recent study that the district will experience growing enrollment from its current 5,300 students to about 6,100 students in the next eight to 10 years.

The growth is not the result of new students moving into the district. Rather, the growth is because of larger grade-level classes, notably the current kindergarten through third-graders, moving their way through the system.

Originally, more than 12 options were considered for addressing enrollment growth and better use of facilities. Options were narrowed to five in September and the final three in October.

The options

The two main options under consideration are:

• Option A: Would keep Northpoint and Park Terrace K-3 schools and move the Spanish Immersion program, now housed at Westwood Intermediate School, to Woodcrest Elementary School, turning it into a K-5 school.

• Option B: Would change the current K-3 elementary schools, Park Terrace, Northpoint and Woodcrest, into K-4 schools and house a K-5 Spanish Immersion program at Westwood.

Option B, however, does not meet the district’s decision-making parameters. Still, it will be taken into consideration as the district’s design team considers adding changes to the plan, according to the district.

A third choice, Option C, was considered in which Park Terrace, Northpoint and Woodcrest would remain K-3 schools, while K-3 Spanish Immersion would be housed at Park Terrace, but Ronneberg said it was not viable because of time constraints. Cost and little flexibility in addressing future enrollment changes were among other reasons for not considering the option.

Improved demographics

Ronneberg said the district is working “to improve potential balance of student demographics.”

We “have a discrepancy right now,” he said.

Students now on free and/or reduced lunches in the elementary schools are: Northpoint, 21 percent; Park Terrace, 32 percent; and Woodcrest, 61 percent. There is a 40 percent gap between Northpoint and Woodcrest.

Race demographics for the elementary schools are: Northpoint, 29 percent; Park Terrace, 26 percent; and Woodcrest, 45 percent.

The district started a K-3 programming and boundary study back in 2010. The need to refine boundaries was evident, according to the district.

“The district could have implemented boundary changes for 2012-13 that would have worked in the short-term, but would have required changes almost immediately with little flexibility to manage enrollments and student needs in the future,” according to a district staff report.

The district over the next six weeks plans to hold meetings to inform and solicit feedback for implementing facilities and programming changes. The changes would start in fall 2013.

The school board will continue discussion of narrowed and viable options at its regular board meeting, Nov. 13, 7 p.m., at the District Services Center, 1415 81st Ave. N.E., Spring Lake Park.

The board will approve an option at its December 18 meeting, following Parent Input Team and parent information meetings. Refinements will be made and an implementation plan developed in the months to follow.

Next steps, key dates

• Nov. 12: Parent input team meeting

• Nov. 12: Teacher/staff input team meeting

• Nov. 13: School board meeting, 7 p.m., District Services Center. Further discussion of narrowed and viable option(s)

• Nov. 19: Parent input team meeting

• Nov. 20: Parent information meeting, Woodcrest Elementary, 6:30 p.m.

• Nov. 26: Parent information meeting, Park Terrace Elementary, 6:30 p.m.

• Week of Dec. 10: Parent information meeting, Spanish Immersion/Westwood Intermediate, time TBA

• Week of Dec. 10: Parent information meeting, Northpoint Elementary, time TBA

• Dec. 18: School board meeting, 7 p.m., District Services Center. Approval of option for 2013-14

For more information on the PreK-12 master facilities and programming study, visit District 16’s website at www.springlakeparkschools.org.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]