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Rockwood to examine student population shifts

Rockwood School District’s Board of Education is looking at possible new attendance boundaries for new subdivisions in its Chesterfield, Wild Horse, Kellison and Stanton elementary schools areas.

District Superintendent Eric Knost told the Board of Education Dec. 18 that a big factor in successful schools is lower class sizes, “so we need to be cognizant of increased enrollments.”

“We’re nowhere near a situation where we’d have to redistrict, and there are other factors we should consider rather than to disrupt children’s and families’ lives by moving them about,” he said. “But we have to look at new growth areas, and we’ve asked staff to propose ways to deal with potential shifts in student population that we can consider in the coming years.”

According to Knost, student population is growing at Eureka Elementary due to new subdivision developments; however, new early childhood students, for now, are being sent to nearby Blevins Elementary.

“But there may be more developments on the horizon to cause us eventually to consider building a new Eureka Elementary as opposed to putting money into the current old building,” he said.

Jane Brown, the district’s executive director of pre-k and elementary education, said the district’s priorities include making changes in attendance areas with minimal impact to families and neighborhoods; maintaining district recommended class sizes; ensuring safety and quality learning environments; and promoting effective management of schools through optimal staffing, schedules and supervision.

She said Wild Horse Elementary’s current enrollment is 566 students, while Chesterfield Elementary’s is 387. However, projected enrollments in the 2019-20 school year – without a boundary change – are anticipated to be 586 for Wild Horse and 353 for Chesterfield. Totals with boundary changes for that year would be projected at 574 for Wild Horse and 365 for Chesterfield.

A possible option is to grandfather all children – school age, preschool and unborn – of existing property owners in a proposed Chesterfield boundary expansion area. Children may continue their education at their current school (Wild Horse) including schools in the high school feeder pattern. District transportation for the children of existing property owners would be included for a minimum of 10 years, Brown said.

“There’s a lot of undeveloped land in that area, some not even for sale, but we need to be able to prevent future student overpopulation in any school due to future development,” Tim Rooney, chief financial and legislative affairs officer, said.

The Stanton/Kellison situation is more pressing, Brown said.

Current enrollment at Stanton is 549 students with 381 students at Kellison; however, projected enrollments without a boundary change in 2019-20 are estimated to be 567 at Stanton and 288 at Kellison. Totals with boundary changes for that year would be 457 for Stanton and 398 for Kellison.

Stanton now has 204 planned housing units within its boundaries, Brown said, with additional undeveloped/vacant land that could yield an unknown number of students.

Options for that area include doing nothing, which may not be viable; creating a new boundary line that would have minimal impact to current highly populated neighborhoods while planning for future growth on undeveloped land; and grandfathering all children, born and unborn, of existing property owners in the proposed Kellison boundary expansion area, so that children may continue their education at Stanton (their current school). In that option, transportation for the children of existing property owners would be provided by Rockwood for a minimum of 10 years.

Wil Franklin of Heritage Valley Drive in the large and growing Estates of Williams Creek neighborhood told the board during public comment that he was pleased Rockwood was working with current residents on potential changes.

Knost said that, while existing residents there would prefer their children remain at Stanton and only children in the new proposed homes go to Kellison, that new part of the subdivision could become “a Kellison island” otherwise surrounded by homes with children attending Stanton.

“That would not solve the problem long term,” he said.

Board Vice President Loralee Mondl added that it would make more sense for an entire neighborhood to go to one school.

In anticipation of need, Rooney said Stanton’s current attendance area has a lot of undeveloped land “and the potential for growing a lot.”

But Knost pressed for a calculated approach.

“For now, we want to take a deep breath and have the board revisit the situation in January to determine then if it’s time to make changes.”

The board is scheduled to meet on Jan. 8 and Jan. 22. Agendas for those meetings are not yet published.

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