How to manage future overcrowding at Kings?

Posted at 1:33 PM, Oct 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-16 13:33:42-04

Parents are helping shape plans to manage future overcrowding in Kings Local School District.

About 64 community members gathered with district staff and faculty Tuesday evening to discuss enrollment growth and what it means for Kings Local Schools. The meeting was the first of three that will be held this month.

“I thought it was good, open communication with families in the area to let us know what’s going on and what to expect,” said Leilah Randol, who has three daughters in the district.

With multiple new developments in various stages within the district’s boundaries, district officials are expecting an influx of new students in the coming years.

“Right now, we know of nine new developments,” said Superintendent Tim Ackermann. “Some are in construction already.”

The district already is beginning to see the effects of the new developments. From February to September, the student population increased by 112. About 50 of those students are at Kings Mills Elementary, accounting for 45 percent of the growth for the whole district.

Based on data generated by California company DecisionInsite, district officials expect to see between 52 and 74 new students in 2016. By 2019, they anticipate the aggregate number of new students to reach between 330 and 376, with anywhere from 54 to 107 new students that year alone.

If the predictions hold true, two of the district’s three elementary schools and Columbia Intermediate School will exceed capacity by 2019. By 2025, all buildings in the district – with the exception of JF Burns Elementary – are expected to exceed capacity.

School board members last school year began exploring the possibility of reconfiguring grade levels as a way to save money. The change would put kindergartners through second-graders in two buildings. Third- and fourth-graders would be in one building, while keeping fifth- and sixth-graders, seventh- and eighth-graders and high schoolers in their current respective buildings.

Reconfiguring grade levels is still being considered, but district officials also are looking into three other possibilities and are open to additional solutions.

“A decision has not been made,” Ackermann said.

Another possible solution is creating all-grade-level buildings. One building would house all pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students. First- and second-graders would be in another building. Third and fourth grades would be paired together in their own building as would fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth grades.

Other options include redistricting and adding new buildings.

“I just hope that they take the children’s needs first and what would be best for them,” Randol said.

After presenting data and possible solutions to community members, Ackermann challenged them to come up with additional options.

Suggestions included sending students from the new developments to buildings that have additional space, expanding the district’s current buildings, using trailers to accommodate students and combining options.

Ackermann also tasked those in attendance with sharing which factors are most important to them in choosing a solution.

“I think when they’re talking about all the considerations … we can’t always guess what those things are going to be,” Ackermann said. “So it’s good to hear from them -- what they’re worried about and what they think we need to consider.”

Parents requested that board members consider factors such as cost, potential job loss and age level spread within buildings.

“I think they did an amazing job on this community event, getting community feedback,” said parent Danielle Unruh.

Andrew Gostel, who has a fifth-grader, freshman and junior in the district, said this isn’t the first time he has seen issues stemming from enrollment growth.

Gostel and his family moved to the area two months ago from Georgia. Their previous school district faced a similar challenge, which led to redistricting.

“I can certainly empathize with other parents,” he said.

Additional community enrollment meetings will be held Oct. 14 at Kings Mills Elementary and Oct. 28 at South Lebanon Elementary. Both meetings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

District officials hope the feedback will guide a committee of parents, teachers and administrators to make a recommendation to school board members at their February meeting.