By Kalen Ponche
Parents, teachers and community members said they’d like to see the St. Charles school district reopen a closed elementary school as a way to cope with growing enrollment , according to results from a survey.
Some district elementary schools have reached capacity because of an increase in the number of kindergarten students. Superintendent Randy Charles expects to see the growth continue and said he wants to have a plan in place to put into action for the 2011-12 school year.
Charles presented nine possible ways to cope with the growth at parent meetings in February and asked everyone to respond to an online survey. About 730 parents, 160 teachers or staff, and 40 community members responded.
Members of the Board of Education are expected to discuss survey results at their meeting set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
All three groups rejected most of the nine options presented, but agreed that reopening Blackhurst Elementary School was the best choice. In 2007, the school board decided to reorganize the whole district because they anticipated a drop in enrollment. Blackhurst and Benton Elementary Schools were closed and the children were sent to other elementary schools.
Fifth grade students were moved from the elementary schools to Jefferson Middle School along with sixth grade students; seventh and eighth graders attend Hardin.
More than 60 percent of each group said that reopening Blackhurst Elementary School as a regular school was a “good” or “very good” idea. Some parents who responded to the survey said they thought the district should not have closed the school in the first place. Others didn’t want to see their children uprooted for a second time.
“Allow some choice to students on the boundaries, even if no bus service,” one parent commented on the survey.
But for this option to work, the elementary boundaries would have to be redrawn said Charles.
Most of the district’s other options were ranked as “bad” or “very bad” ideas by survey respondents. About half of the teachers thought reopening Blackhurst as an early-childhood center that would include kindergarten was a “good” or a “very good” idea, but about half of the community and parents thought it was “bad” or “very bad.”
But survey respondents thought doing nothing at all was worse, with 80 percent of all three groups rating it “bad” or “very bad” option.
The cost to reopen the Blackhurst for any of these purposes would be about $500,000 in one-time expenses and $500,000 in ongoing expenses, said Charles. He said the district might not spend the entire capital projects budget next year and would be able to set aside some money for that purpose.
He said if 60 more kindergarten students enroll in the fall, the board may have to consider cuts in other areas to fund whichever option the board ends up choosing.
“We know what we have to watch,” he said.
Here’s a condensed look at the results of the community survey on how the school district should cope with growing enrollment. The district divided the responses of parents, teachers and community members.
1. Reopen Blackhurst as a regular school: More than 60 percent of all three groups thought this was a “good” or “very good” idea.
2. Reopen Blackhurst as a “school of choice” that would focus on one subject. Students would have to apply to attend. Thirty-eight percent of parents thought this was “bad” or “very bad” idea; 52 percent of parents and community members thought this was “bad” or “very bad.”
3. Reopen Blackhurst as an early childhood center that would include kindergarten. At least 39 percent of parents and community members thought this was a “bad” or “very bad” idea, but 51 percent of teachers thought this was a “good” or “very good” idea.
4. Reopen Blackhurst as a K-12 alternative school for “at-risk” kids. At least 40 percent of parents and community members thought this was a “bad” or “very bad” idea. Teachers were split on the suggestion with 38 percent calling it “bad” or “very bad” and 38 percent calling it “good” or “very good”.
5. Combine high schools and middle schools to have one district high school and one district middle school. At least 73 percent of all three groups thought this was a “bad” or “very bad” idea.
6. Construct additions to middle schools. At least 50 percent of teachers and community members thought this was “bad” or “very bad.” About 36 percent of parents thought this was “good” or “very good.”
7. Restructure elementary schools into k-2 and 3-4 centers. At least 61 percent of all three groups thought this idea was “bad” or “very bad.”
8. Move students from Lincoln Elementary School into Blackhurst Elementary school which is bigger and redraw boundary lines. At least 45 percent of parents and community members thought this was “bad or “very bad” idea. Teachers were split with 39 percent who said it was “bad” or “very bad” idea and 28 percent who said it was “good” or “very good.”
9. Do nothing, and allow class sizes to go up. At least 79 percent of each group thought this was a “bad” or “very bad” idea.