Elementary borders to remain
November 20, 2012
Concerns arose among parents at Parley’s Park Elementary School last year that the school was overcrowded, resulting in an inquiry to see whether that was the case. In the most recent Park City Board of Education meeting, a committee reported to the board that was not the case, that the schools were unlikely to reach capacity in the next five years.
"Parents expressed concerns that the schools were feeling crowded," said Todd Hauber, the Park City School District Business Administrator, "that one school was being impacted more than others. So we started taking a look at the enrollment numbers and the projections over next five years to see if there was a necessity to revisit the boundaries."
"What it looks like is that we will be okay," he added.
The committee that was formed to study the issue found that every elementary school in the district was well below capacity and that re-drawing boundary lines and potentially shuffling students into different schools was unnecessary. At the Board of Education meeting, the committee recommended no changes to the current elementary school designations.
"It seems to be a non-issue, changing the elementary school borders," said Tom VanGorder, the Park City School District Interim Superintendent. "Of course we will be keeping an eye on any approved developments, and if we need to look at numbers again we can, but for now we seem to be in a good place. Schools are not being over-utilized."
VanGorder said the numbers presented to the board came as somewhat of a surprise, that the school district was prepared to make changes if necessary, but the report showed enrollment growth was slow and elementary school usage was well below capacity. In fact, enrollment growth in elementary schools is low, hovering roughly around 1 percent.
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"In the boom period for Park City, enrollment growth was up at a 4 percent range," Hauber said. "Whether it was economics or charter schools coming online, growth just not happened at that same level."
Using current district enrollment numbers and a classroom ratio of 23 students to one teacher, all four elementary schools are below 80 percent capacity. This year, Jeremy Ranch is at 72 percent capacity, Parley’s Park is at 75 percent capacity and Trailside is at 76 percent capacity. McPolin, the school with the fewest number of students, is currently at 63 percent capacity.
But McPolin Elementary School is also the building that is projected to have the most student enrollment growth in the next five years as new housing projects are expected to be constructed. Park City Heights is an approved housing project consisting of 293 units, 70 of which will be designated for affordable housing. Though the project has been delayed, when it does come eventually begin selling units, incoming families will be sending their children to McPolin Elementary.
"We started playing with projections, guessing what types of families would be most likely to move in," Hauber said, "looking at the different profiles depending what type of units come online."
"With Park City Heights coming, it is possible McPolin could get close to capacity."
Over five years, the district projected that McPolin could reach 108 percent capacity. The other three elementary schools were projected to top at roughly 20 percentage points below McPolin. Jeremy Ranch and Parley’s Park were expected to top out at 90 percent. Trailside was expected to potentially reach 91 percent.
"These are the numbers that were projected," Hauber said, "but in past history of projections, the numbers have not been right on. We do our best to guess where students will come from, but these are educated guesses."
For now, the issue has been dropped until the school district sees a significant growth in the number of students.
"Student enrollment growth is less than 1 percent right now," VanGorder said, "which is good for the school district in a way. It is not a bad thing to have flat growth at this point in time. We have what we need, and we are prepared, with the right number of kids and enough room to grow."