Spring Lake Park district growing enrollment calls for building new classrooms

From the way it looks, more classrooms will be needed for Spring Lake Park District 16 schools.

The district last week continued hammering away at a much-researched move to address a growing phenomenon – an increase in a projected student enrollment of more than 20 percent within the next 10 years.

The growth is expected to result in a lack of space in the district’s schools.

Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg, his administrative cabinet members and Spanish Immersion program director Tom Larson delivered a report on the district’s Master Facilities and Programing Study update as part of the Nov. 13 regular school board meeting.

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.

Also the district is growing more racially and socioeconomically diverse, early childhood needs are increasing and the Lighthouse Program for gifted students continues to grow in enrollment.

The facilities and programing study has been underway since it began in the fall of 2010 as a K-3 Boundaries and Programing Study.

At one point, a design team of school principals, administrators and transportation officials, looked into identifying 40 boundary scenarios, which with a parent input team narrowed the options to six, said Amy Schultz, business manager. The choices, ultimately, were narrowed to three.

‘Twice the trend’

An enrollment study conducted by demographer Hazel Reinhardt, found a four-year average growth rate of 52 students in grades K-3 in the school years of 2006-2010.

But the district saw a growth rate of 190 students in 2011 alone among K-3 students, followed by a growth rate of 118 students this school year. “Twice the trend of what we saw,” Schultz said.

The district’s enrollment now stands at 5,300. The demographic study found that District 16 in eight to 10 years, will have a projected enrollment of about 20 percent, an increase to about 6,100 students.

In another study, Wold Architects conducted a capacity analysis on all of the district’s schools.

“Basically, what we found is that we don’t have space right now for the K-8 programing that we want to have and that is currently available, so facility additions are going to be necessary to meet our current enrollment and future enrollment,” said Denise Waalen, District 16 director of educational services

Option A is viable  

Three options to address the projected increase in enrollment were highlighted at the November board meeting, with Option A appearing to be the most viable to the district.

The proposed option 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.

Option A calls for housing K-3 schools at Park Terrace and Northpoint Elementary Schools, and a K-5 Spanish immersion program at Woodcrest Elementary.

This option requires building additional classrooms at Northpoint and Park Terrace, starting as early as fall of 2013. Woodcrest Elementary students and staff would move to the Park Terrace site starting in the 2013 school year.

The district’s Spanish Immersion Program would be relocated from Westwood Intermediate School to Woodcrest Elementary, allowing the district to grow the now K-3 program into a K-5 program.

The early childhood program would stay at Woodcrest.

The district is attempting to minimize transitions and continues to consider ways to keep a home attendance area for some current Woodcrest students, according to the report.

Under option A, Northpoint would need four classrooms and Park Terrace would need eight classrooms and an expanded cafeteria by fall 2013.

In a longer-range outlook, Westwood Intermediate would need zero to two classrooms and Westwood Middle School would need two to four classrooms by fall 2016 or 2017.

Further down the road, within six to 10 years, the district would need space for its learning alternatives programs and, possibly, other programs.

Other options

Two other options, B and C, were presented at the school board meeting, but did not meet the district’s decision making parameters, mainly because of prohibitive costs.

Option B would turn Park Terrace, Northpoint and Woodcrest into K-4 schools and a Spanish Immersion K-5 program would be housed at Westwood.

Option C calls for K-3 schools at Park Terrace, Northpoint and Woodcrest, while a K-3 Spanish Immersion program would be housed at Park Terrace as a school within a school. The option would require a boundary adjustment for students within the district’s current K-3 schools, said Larson, Spanish Immersion Program director and principal at Westwood Intermediate School.

District 16 makes its decisions on a Guiding Change model. The model takes into consideration current and emerging influences, desired results and unacceptable means.

Option A is the only one that meets the parameters, according to the update report.

The district continues to study variations to the options. It will continue to look at leasing external facilities “but, again, it’s unlikely,” Ronneberg said.

Estimated costs for the options were not included in the update.

An option for the 2013-14 school year is slated to go before the board for approval at the Dec. 18 school board meeting, 7 p.m., District Services Center, 1415 81st Ave. N.E., Spring Lake Park.

The community will have an opportunity to learn more at upcoming meetings.

Next Steps, Key Dates

• Nov. 26: Parent Information Meeting, Park Terrace Elementary, 6:30 p.m.

• Week of Dec. 10: Parent Information Meeting, Spanish Immersion/Westwood Intermediate, Northpoint Elementary schools, time TBA

• Dec. 18: School Board Meeting, 7 p.m., District Services Center, 1415 81st Ave. N.E., Spring Lake Park. Approval of option for 2013-14

• Refinements to and implementation of option will take place months following approval

• Draft of a long-term Master Facilities and Programming Plan will be presented to school board in December, with completion of master plan slated for spring 2013

For more information, visit www.springlakeparkschools.org.

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

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