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Growing Little Miami to reshuffle schools

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Posted at 7:00 AM, Mar 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-07 07:00:07-05

MAINEVILLE, Ohio -- Little Miami Local School District in Warren County is experiencing record enrollment, but it’s running out of space for students. To accommodate, the district is redistributing some of its youngest students into different buildings next year.

In the 2016-2017 school year, all district preschool and kindergarten students will be relocated to Salem Township Elementary and all first- and second-graders will attend either Hamilton-Maineville Primary or Harlan-Butlerville Primary.

The reshuffling will be a change for many families with young students. Currently, Salem Township houses students in kindergarten through fourth grade, Hamilton-Maineville houses kindergarten through second grade and Harlan-Butlerville has preschool through second grade. Third and fourth grades will remain unchanged at Salem. Butlerville and Maineville attendance zones will be reassessed.

The plan, which was approved by the Little Miami School Board at its Jan. 19 meeting, comes on the heels of the district’s analysis of enrollment trends over the last several years and the continued growth expected from an uptick in home construction. The district has grown by about 200 students each year for the last three years, said Gregory Power, Little Miami superintendent.

The reshuffling will likely only stave off crowding for a couple of years before a better solution is implemented.

“This reconfiguration gets us through a growth of 200 students per year for the next two years before we have a drastic need to do something about our space,” Power said.

Current district enrollment is 4,500 students with a maximum capacity of 4,950. In anticipation of running out of space, the district’s business advisory council recommended the school board retain the services of an architect to look at options for expansion, Power said.

The intermediate and junior high buildings were designed to accommodate additional academic wings. Other options include building a structure on district-owned land or renovating or redeveloping Morrow Elementary. Morrow has been vacant since 2009 when the district was dealing with a fiscal emergency following eight consecutive failed tax levies and a subsequent three-year takeover by the state.

The district is still working out the details for implementing the student realignment. Some school arrival and dismissal times will be shifted and bus service will be adjusted, Power said.

“With 200 (new) kids per year, we do need places for them to be,” Power said. “We are expected by the community to wisely use tax dollars and be as efficient as we can, so that is a balance, and as things have evolved we try to meet both of those expectations.”

During Little Miami’s fiscal emergency in 2010, the state required the district to consolidate to four buildings, and some of the upper grade levels were temporarily split up into different buildings instead of being centralized at one junior high, for example. Power said he didn’t want to go back to that, which he felt creates a disconnection within the grade levels. For the 2016-17 school year, the district chose to centralize the lower grades instead of shifting only some of the intermediate and junior high grades.

“We are trying to make as small and minimal a change as we can to support our kids,” Power said. “It would obviously be our first preference not to make any change at all, but we are at a point where we need to make that shift to buy some time to make it through the next couple of years.”

For parents like Krissy Laubernds, the change is the cause of some frustration.

Laubernds’ son is a first-grader at Salem Township Elementary and, under the new plan, he will move to Harlan-Butlerville or Hamilton-Maineville next year. He attended kindergarten outside the district and his transition to a new school was a little rough this school year, so she was glad when she thought he would be staying at Salem through fourth grade.

“It’s taken him almost six months to get comfortable and to learn the new building, and now he will have to do that again next year,” Laubernds said. “I’m glad they started the conversation now so we can get used to the idea, but I wish they had started it in the fall if they knew there was overcrowding to get more input and ideas on what to change.”

Neighboring Kings Local School District is facing many of the same challenges when it comes to space and the burgeoning home construction in the area. Like Little Miami, Kings considered realigning some of the grades but didn’t have enough space to relocate entire grade levels to any of its buildings. The idea also wasn’t popular with parents, as expressed during several community meetings, said Dawn Gould, Kings community relations coordinator.

With community input and the help of Decision Insite -- a company specializing in enrollment impact -- the Kings district ultimately elected to redraw the boundary lines to shift 140 students and create more room for growth from new neighborhoods being built near Kings Mills Elementary, Gould said.

 

Community members can learn more about Little Miami’s plans for the future at upcoming listening sessions. http://www.littlemiamischools.com/district-news/entry/board-schedules-spring-listening-sessions-283/