Over the next year it appears that the Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education will study the idea of eliminating kindergarten classes at two of its schools and centralizing kindergarten classes at just two schools, Blythe Park School in Riverside and Hollywood School in Brookfield.
The purpose of this would be to open up more classroom space for grades one through five at Ames and Central schools and to equalize grade level sections within each school as the district deals with growing enrollment.
The concept was presented to the school board last week by Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson at a meeting of the school board’s education committee.
“We continue to have significant, unrelenting enrollment growth,” Lamberson said. “We would like to go to nine sections in each grade (except for kindergarten).”
According to a recent enrollment report 1,576 students currently attend District 96 schools. Enrollment in District 96 schools has increased by nearly 40 percent in the last 10 years, Lamberson said.
In his presentation, Lamberson emphasized that the proposal that he was outlining would not be put into effect next year.
“There is no change for next year,” Lamberson said repeatedly.
He said that was merely presenting the plan to see if the board was interested in creating a committee to study it.
District 96 currently has eight sections of kindergarten. Under Lamberson’s proposal, the number of kindergarten sections would remain at eight, but their location would change. Under the proposal outlined last week there would be six sections of kindergarten at Blythe Park School and two at Hollywood School.
Currently there are three sections of kindergarten at Ames School, three at Central School and one each at Blythe Park and Hollywood. Under the proposal there would be no kindergarten classes at Ames or Central.
This would open up classroom space for other grades at both Ames and Central. According to the district’s student displacement report from Nov. 30, 2011, there are 51 students living in the Ames attendance area who have to attend other schools, because there is not space for them at Ames.
Ames-area students make up more than half of the total number of students in District 96 who are displaced. According to the November report, there are 84 displaced students in the district.
If the plan is adopted more students who live in the Ames attendance area could attend Ames, except for kindergarten.
“It is better for Ames families to attend Ames,” Lamberson said. “This will be a long conversation.”
If the proposal is ultimately adopted as it was presented last week, Central School would have four sections in grades one through five, while Ames would have three sections in grades one through five. Both Blythe Park and Hollywood Schools would have just one section each in grades one through five.
Currently Ames has three sections in first, fourth and fifth grades and two sections each in second and third grades. Central currently has four sections in second and third grades and three sections in the other grades.
Hollywood is and would remain a one-section school, while Blythe Park, which currently has two sections in second and third grades and one section each in the other grades, would become a one-section school for grades one through five.
“Twenty percent of Blythe Park students are from other attendance areas, mostly from Ames,” Lamberson said.
If the plan is ultimately adopted, District 96 would have to hire three additional teachers because it would go from having 42 sections in grades one through five to 45 sections.
But if the plan was adopted the district would not have to build out the basement at Blythe Park School to create the additional classroom space necessary to make Blythe Park a true two-section school.
In March, the school board may appoint a committee to study the proposal.
District 96 school board President Mary Ellen Meindl and other board members seemed intrigued with Lamberson’s proposal.
“He’s trying to come up with creative ways to utilize our buildings in the best possible way that we can,” Meindl said. “The committee felt that it warranted discussion. I think we’re all open to discussion. Having a committee that would encompass a board member or two, administrators and parents is always a good thing.”