At a special School Board meeting held on April 25, the issue of whether or not there is a need to adjust school site capacity was discussed.
Site capacity standards were reviewed due to the District’s ongoing 20-year Facilities Master Plan process. The purpose of the plan is to establish policies and priorities and to identify projects that will build upon the seven initiatives that were identified in the District’s Strategic Plan that was developed in 2002. The seven initiatives are abundant resources; curriculum; differentiated learning; equity and equality of education; optimal class size, schools as community centers; and universal access to quality early childhood education, family support programs and after school care.
The Applied Management and Planning Group developed the District standards for individual school site enrollment 10 years ago. For elementary school sites enrollment was projected to be from 500-600 students, for middle school sites it was 800-1,000 and for high schools it was 3,000. Standards were not set for a continuation high school or a community day school.
Superintendent Dianne Talarico told the Board, “Part of our struggle with capacity…is that things have changed in terms of the number of children in classrooms,” especially because of the change in state law for class size reduction at the elementary school level.
According to the District staff report, enrollment has gone up and down over the last 10 years. In the 1997-1998 academic year, enrollment was at 11,534 students. It then peaked in the 2003-2004 academic year at 12,842 students, and this year it is at 11,902 students.
District staff suggested increasing the range for the elementary school sites to 600-800 students and 800-1,200 students for the middle school sites. They did not feel the enrollment number for the high schools should be increased more than the current maximum of 3,000 students. They also suggested numbers for the two grade levels which did not have projections in 1997: 100-300 students for a continuation high school and 25-50 students for a community day school.
The District’s Director of Purchasing, Virginia Hyatt, stated the District projections were based upon “growth at Lincoln Middle School and at the elementary school sites.”
Superintendent Talarico added that District officials “don’t envision any elementary school in the District growing to 1,000 students.”
Board members were more comfortable setting a maximum capacity for each site rather than a range, but a specific decision was not made as to what those numbers should be. Board member Jose Escarce explained that enrollment depends on demographics, permits for kids from within and outside the District and parents deciding to send their kids to private rather than public schools.