District 16 slows boundary changes process

by Elyse Kaner
Staff Writer

The Spring Lake Park District 16 School Board is slowing down a boundary changes and program planning process.

The plans for change are intended to address maximum effective use of the district’s buildings and to address its growing student population and program options, particularly the Spanish Immersion program now located in Westwood Intermediate School. Also, the plan addresses the effective management of current and future enrollment trends.

“One thing we have realized in this process is that it is far more involved than we expected it to be when we started,” Business Manager Amy Schultz said at a Jan. 10 board work session. She made the comments in a report to board members as part of a discussion item on effective operations.

Boundaries were last changed in 2008 when Northpoint Elementary School opened in Blaine.

The district began a K-3 boundary study in the fall of 2010. A design team, comprising school principals, administrators and transportation officials, examined dozens of options. An input team of parents from the district’s three elementary schools and the Spanish Immersion program this week were slated to review a narrowed number of options.

The district continues to look into space options. Schultz said district officials are meeting with the design team, the department of education and the district’s attorney to review options for possibly leasing space or adding space for “any number of programs.”

“The entire process could stretch out another year for us to feel really comfortable with what we’re presenting,” Schultz said.

Schultz listed the following meeting schedule:

• Input team, Jan. 17 and, if necessary, Jan. 24 (parent group)

• Board update Jan. 31

• Community information session tentatively set for Feb. 2 and/or Feb. 9

• Recommendation to the board, Feb. 14

The design team will continue to meet a couple times a week, Schultz said.

“At this point, the recommendation could be anything from we really don’t know that we need to tweak boundaries at all next year with the exception of Spanish Immersion,” Schultz said.

It could be something as small as starting a kindergarten in another school to a full-blown boundary change, she said. A goal of the district is to impact as few students as possible.

95 percent capacity

But the district is outgrowing its space with a projected capacity of 95 percent for next year. This leaves little room for student movement (families moving in and out of the district), Schultz said in an interview with the Life.

This year, 470 kindergartners are enrolled in the district. A more typical number is 380, according to Schultz.

As a result of growing enrollment, the district is working with Wold architect firm to look into adding space to either Woodcrest or Park Terrace Elementary school. Four to six classrooms would be added in one school. The district has money for such a project in its construction funds, Schultz said, and would not have to go to taxpayers to ask for additional dollars.

“We’re not building a building, so it’s not $21 million dollars,” she said in the interview. “It’s adding on some classrooms.”

The move to expand would depend on next year’s enrollment figures, which can change.

Also, District 16 is now looking for additional space for a growing Spanish Immersion program housed at Westwood Intermediate. So far, the program comprises K-2 grades, with a goal of adding a class a year until fifth grade. One hundred ninety students are currently enrolled in the Spanish Immersion Program.

“Right now Westwood Intermediate will be too crowded to continue to house that program,” Schultz said in an interview with the Life. “As the program grows by grade level, they will have a hard time adding 75 more students to that school.”

Details of meetings will be posted on the district’s website at www.springlakeparkschools.org when option considerations have been finalized.

Board approval of a boundary plan could take place as early as Feb. 14 at the regular school board meeting, according to the district’s website.

District 16 serves 5,100 students from Spring Lake Park and portions of Blaine and Fridley.

The District Service Center is located at 1415 81 Ave. N.E., Spring Lake Park.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]