In a move to counter an enrollment increase in the fall of nearly 8 percent at Hauser Junior High School, the Superintendent of Riverside Elementary School District 96 announced at the March 18 school board meeting that the district’s administrative offices would temporarily move out of the school to provide extra classroom space.

While the administrative staff is looking for a new home, Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson said they will also be closely monitoring kindergarten enrollment for the next school year to preserve much-needed classroom space in the district’s elementary schools.

Lamberson said the enrollment increase expected at Hauser will put the size of the student body close to 500 students, which they cannot fit in the school’s current size.

In addition to the office space, Hauser will also be using a classroom at Central School currently used for kindergarten. Together, Lamberson said the rooms will provide Hauser with the equivalent of 2.5 classrooms, part of which he said would be used as small computer labs.

Lamberson said the district offices would be moved to make way for students by the beginning of the next school year.

In a separate interview, he said converting the office space and Central School classroom into rooms for Hauser Junior High was the most economical way to provide the necessary space for those students while still maintaining class-size caps and the regular curriculum.

The offices are already safety-code compliant, he said, which would make the costs of converting them for student use minimal. He said the alternatives would be converting a computer lab or part of the library into regular classrooms.

“We won’t have to pare any programs back,” Lamberson said. “Every program will be intact and we’ll be able to stay within class-size targets.”

Lamberson said the district has not yet found a new site for the district offices, but said staying inside the district was his main priority in choosing a location. Lamberson also could not provide an estimate for how much it would cost to lease a new space, but said properties the staff had considered ranged in price from $15 to more than $20 per square foot. He said the current office takes up 1,700 square feet.

“We need to find the most economic space available while staying close to the schools and within the district,” he said.

Lamberson said that the move would not be permanent, and that he plans for the administrative staff to return to their original space once the enrollment begins to decline.

He said he expects that to happen within the next six years, as the enrollment increases seen in the elementary schools make their way through the system.

There had been no public discussion about moving the administrative offices at recent board meetings, and some in the audience expressed surprise that a final decision on the topic had already been reached.

Lamberson acknowledged that it seemed sudden, but said that there had been discussion at the administrative level. He also noted that it had been an option in the final report of the district’s Enrollment Solution Study Group last April.

“This has been on the docket for a while,” he said. “It’s something we do not want to do, but in the end, it’s the least expensive alternative. We’ll be able to have a temporary location and just return back as soon as possible.”