Sitting at the public hearing for the school enrollment plan Tuesday evening, this thought began and gained steam: is choice luxury or necessity?
School board members heard from 29 speakers. The majority of these speakers asked for choice. They want the choice to remain where they currently are or the choice of a calendar option that would be guaranteed for their family.
As the school board moves forward in making final decisions for the 2015-2016 School Enrollment Plan, they must decide how best to mete out choice. Unfortunately, there may not be much choice to provide.
Opening five schools in one year is big, even for WCPSS. These schools were built to relieve overcrowding and provide additional capacity. It is inefficient to open schools with a single grade level and allow them to fill from the entry grade level only. Under that scenario, it would require six years for an elementary school to fill.
During that time, nearby facilities struggle with populations far beyond planned capacity. A school campus may receive additional mobile units for classrooms, but it often serves those additional students with core facilities planned for a smaller number. Those core facilities include the cafeteria, restrooms, and gymnasium. Additional stress is placed on infrastructure like HVAC and plumbing.
Asst. Superintendent for Facilities Joe Desormeaux often states that WCPSS could “over” build by 1,000 seats per year for twenty years before all mobile units on WCPSS would be eliminated.
There just isn’t very much capacity within existing schools to provide additional choice. Somebody has to move
Parents want choices that meet the needs of their families. They want calendar choices so that they can manage schedules of children at elementary, middle, and high schools. They want stability of enrollment so that they can maintain support for and engagement in school environments.
This doesn’t sound like luxury.
The school board wants families who love their schools, are happy to be there, and who have confidence in the school system.
Also, not luxury.
The school board continues its discussion of the 2015-2016 School Enrollment Plan at their next work session on November 17. They are scheduled to approve a final plan on December 1.