Riverside School District 96 administrators posted the final report from the group charged with exploring solutions to the district’s rapidly increasing enrollment highlights five “stand-out solutions,” ranging from providing online spring enrollment to relocating entire grade levels within the district.
The report is the product of about five months of brainstorming and analysis by the Enrollment Solutions Study Group (ESSG), comprised of district staff and administrators, as well as PTA representatives from each school. Their goal was to identify potential ways of absorbing the anticipated spike in student enrollment over the next few years.
According to the report, enrollment has increased 16 percent in the past five years, and a recent demography report predicted that it could rise from the current enrollment of about 1,300 students to between 1,600 and 1,800 by 2010, a level not seen in decades.
“We’re anticipating an enrollment of over 1,400 next year,” Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson said. “We haven’t seen that in 34, 35 years.”
An enrollment of 1,400 would place the district between the mid- and high-level estimates from the district’s five-year enrollment projections. According to the ESSG report, such high enrollment levels will require extra classrooms for every grade level in the district.
The group went through a long list of potential solutions to the enrollment problem, but in the end identified five that they determined could benefit the district most.
These included introducing the option of online spring enrollment, which Lamberson explained would give administrators an idea of future enrollment much earlier in the year. Currently the district uses mail-in enrollment in July, but the bulk of its registration isn’t completed until the week before school in August.
“We might have a much better probability of knowing how much enrollment will increase from year to year,” Lamberson said, adding that administrators were looking at implementing online enrollment next year simply because of the convenience it offers for parents and administrators.
The remaining suggestions involved more complicated changes at each school. Two would free up classrooms at the district’s elementary schools by relocating different grade levels, either by finding a satellite site for the kindergarten program or making Central School into a grade-level center for the fifth grade. Installing mobile classrooms as they were needed at each school was also suggested.
The final recommendation concentrated on Hauser Junior High, and suggested splitting the schedule at the school, having grades start and end the school day at different times to better spread out the increasing student body’s use of the building. Lamberson said the group didn’t go so far as to determine exactly how this should be done, but noted it was an option used by many school districts facing a rapid enrollment increase.
Lamberson said the study group chose the five stand-outs that would have the greatest positive impact on helping to address the growing enrollment, but would also be relatively easy to implement and alter as needed. He noted that the district’s enrollment projections also include a significant decline after the 2010-2011 school year, making more permanent responses to the current increases, such as constructing additions or new schools, fiscally irresponsible.
“We don’t want to build and then have empty classrooms,” he said. “The group didn’t want to do things that don’t reflect the trends we’re seeing.”
Lamberson also stressed that the school board would not necessarily implement the suggestions from the study group report, and they were still open to other suggestions from the community. These will be gathered, he said, at parent meetings administrators will organize through each PTA in the fall.
“We’ll start looking at the five, and other things will surface,” Lamberson said.
A broader timeline for actually implementing whatever solutions are agreed upon at these fall meetings has yet to be determined, Lamberson said. He explained that timeline would be driven by the enrollment for the 2007-08 school year. He predicted that enrollment would reach 1,400. If it didn’t reach that level, he said, the need to implement changes would be less urgent.
“If it doesn’t reach 1,400, perhaps our enrollment could give us an extra year,” he said.