Archive for Thursday, July 12, 2001

Board tackles district growth

July 12, 2001

Nottingham Elementary students looking for the computer lab need look no further than the commons area. In fact, their classroom might just be in the room that used to be the computer lab.

This switch is more than a complex game of musical chairs. The changes are a response to district growth that seems to have the greatest impact at Nottingham and the high school.

Projections for school district numbers indicate a steady increase in enrollment over the next five years.

Superintendent Marty Kobza worked with an analyst from Kansas State University to project the district's growth as well as find out in which grades the district is losing and gaining students. The formula considers how many babies born in Douglas County enter kindergarten in Eudora five years later.

Looking at the bigger picture, projections predict that by the 2005-2006 school year, the district will house 1,273 students 88 more than current enrollment. And that doesn't include new housing. According to a model used by the Blue Valley School District, new housing adds another half student per household under construction. Judging by current building, Kobza said a conservative estimate would add another 13 students this school year.

"As we go on to perfect the process we'll be more and more specific," Kobza said. Eventually, the district could find an average number of students per household based on price range, ownership versus rental and other factors.

In the meantime, the growth strains the Nottingham and high school facilities most, Kobza said.

Building a new high school could ease the strain on Nottingham, Kobza said, if the district moved a grade from Nottingham to West Elementary School. In return, one of West's grades would be bumped up to the middle school. If the middle school moves into the current high school building, plenty of space would be available for sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

According to the numbers, Kobza said the switch should accomodate the district, until 2008. If numbers continue to rise, the district would have to look at another elementary facility, Kobza said.

"By building this one building (the high school), we'd be solving the problem for all three buildings," Kobza said. "From the taxpayer's perspective, the plan would only build what was needed at the time it's needed."

Kobza said he didn't think Nottingham had room to construct new classroom space. Although the district could add classrooms to the high school, Kobza said it wouldn't solve the problem at Nottingham.

"It's really a K-12 issue," he said. "Adding classrooms doesn't solve problems. If we went with an option not to build a big building, just put up temporary buildings, those are temporary fixes, not solutions."

The numbers show that the district loses about 10 percent of kindergarten students before they enter the first grade. Yet the district seems to gain them back throughout the elementary and middle school years, Kobza said.

"The only way we're going to figure that out is to look at those kids who left," he said. "The hypothesis is that there's a tendency that people often have their kids home schooled or send them to private schools."

These conditions might also explain why the district gains sometimes as many as 12 percent more students going from eighth to ninth grade, he said.

"People will often, after sending their kids to home school or private school, send them to high school in terms of the courses offered and to get the high school diploma," Kobza said.

The drop between 10th and 11th grade, Kobza said, could be attributed to students who reach the age of 16 can decide whether to continue with school.

But Kobza pointed out that the district had dropout numbers to fewer than 2 percent. According to the Kansas Association of School Boards' 1998-1999 numbers, the statewide average for schools with a district enrollment less than 1,750 was 1.1 percent. For all schools, the average was about 2 percent.

Average daily attendance at Eudora High School is approximately 96 percent.

"That is an issue we've really worked on in the last couple of years," Kobza said. "We feel like those are due to some programs that haven't been in place before."

Although a growing district can strain a community, Eudora is better off for it, Kobza said, in comparison with the majority of Kansas school districts who are losing students.

"We're in a very fortunate situation, even though we're figuring out our needs," Kobza said. "With declining enrollment there are many problems that come there, too."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.