Faced with an unusually large kindergarten class for the coming school year, administrators in District 96 are considering adding, for the first time, a section of afternoon kindergarten at one of their elementary schools to relieve the pressure on the other classrooms.
At a school board meeting May 16, Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson explained that six of the district’s seven kindergarten sections have either reached or are just one student below the set 20-student classroom cap.
The increased enrollment has been especially concentrated at Ames School, where its two kindergarten sections are already filled and at least 12 students in its attendance area have had to enroll in one of the district’s other schools.
Similarly, four students who would otherwise attend Blythe Park School have had to enroll at other schools once Blythe Park’s single kindergarten section was filled.
The current enrollment also leaves open only six spaces for any new kindergarten students who enroll over the summer. Lamberson said this is especially worrisome, since the district usually receives 10 or more kindergarten enrollment requests over the summer.
“Going into the summer with only six seats district-wide is very troubling,” Lamberson said. “It’s also troubling to have a situation where we are bumping students from one attendance area to go other places in the district.”
The proposed solution to this problem would be to create one section of afternoon kindergarten at Ames School, which see extra section would allow all students to attend their home schools and would increase the number of open seats in the district to 26.
However, the fact that the new section would be held in the afternoon would mean that none of the students in the class would be able to participate in the district’s kindergarten enrichment program, an extension of the kindergarten curriculum that is held in the afternoon. Lamberson said that this year about 70 percent of kindergarten students participated in the program.
While Lamberson said the decision on whether to create an extra kindergarten section would have to be made by the end of the school year, he said that administrators would first gather input from parents. He added that a letter outlining the situation had recently been sent out to all Ames School parents whose children would be attending kindergarten in the fall.
“The decision has not been made yet,” he said. “We want to wait until we hear from parents and get their reactions before going further.”
Lamberson also noted that the current enrollment crunch is just the beginning of a larger space problem the district will be facing in coming years. According to a recent demographic survey of the district, total enrollment is expected to increase by 18 percent in the next five years.
In a district where most class sections are already filled to capacity, finding room for these extra students will be a challenge.
However, Lamberson said administrators are already looking at potential solutions, and hope to have a plan in place to accommodate the enrollment increases within the next two years.
“We’ve started grappling with this already in our Building Committee,” he said, “and we don’t know yet what the final solution will be. We’ll have to get creative.”