Feasibility study on sixth grade space reported to school board

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When the decision was made to move all county sixth graders into Jefferson-Craig Elementary School and out of the middle school for the 2010-2011 school year, school board members agreed to the plan with the provision that a feasibility study would be conducted about different options for the future.

Those options were presented to the board at its meeting on Monday night, as officials form Educational Services Company from Indianapolis were on hand to tell the board what they had found.

The matter centers on the sixth grade students who are coming from Switzerland County Elementary School. At the time that the move was approved, there was concern about moving those students to Jefferson-Craig for one year, then into the middle school for two years; then on to the high school.

Part of the discussion by school board members at the time was whether or not the two elementaries could be configured so that both schools could keep their students through the sixth grade year, and then all of them would move to the middle school for their seventh grade year.

Space and upgrades at Switzerland County Elementary were an issue; as well as space at Jefferson-Craig.

Currently, all of the sixth graders are at Jefferson-Craig, but two of the sixth grade classrooms are technically housed in the middle school building; as is the computer lab used by the Jeff-Craig students.

The pre-kindergarten class that had been at Jefferson-Craig was also moved to Switzerland County Elementary to make space for the sixth graders.

At Monday’s meeting, Don Dyck and Jerry Moore from Educational Services Company presented their findings; along with demographic consultant Susan Brudvig, who spoke about student projections heading into the future.

Susan Brudvig told the board that she projects that the county’s population had actually grown over the past decade by seven-percent; and that every township in the county had experienced growth with the exception of Jefferson Township.

Pleasant Township had the greatest percentage of growth (16-percent); followed by Craig Township (15-percent); Cotton Township (10-percent); York Township (eight-percent); Posey Township (seven-percent); and Jefferson Township (-1 percent).

Susan Brudvig said one of the factors to consider was the locating of the Amish community into the county, noting that although those families represent a growth in population, that normally doesn’t translate into growth in the schools, because those children rarely attend public schools.

In terms of resident births, the county had a high of 135 births in 2007 (those babies would be three-years old now); with 123 in 2008 and 113 in 2009. Data from the 2010 Census is not yet available, but will continue to lend perspective on these trends when the statistics are released in about three months.

Based on these and other data, Susan Brudvig told the board that she sees two forecasts for the school corporation in the coming decade. In terms of a base forecast on a student head count, actually counting the number of students in the schools, she projects:

– The current 2010-2011 year has a total of 1,429, with 774 of those in elementary school; 220 in middle school; and 435 in the high school.

– The 2012-2013 year projects to have a total of 1,440, with 780 of those in elementary school; 230 in middle school; and 430 in the high school.

– The 2014-2015 year projects to have a total of 1,460, with 830 of those in elementary school; 220 in middle school; and 410 in the high school.

– The 2016-2017 year projects to have a total of 1,460, with 830 of those in elementary school; 230 in middle school; and 400 in the high school.

– The 2018-2019 year projects to have a total of 1,490, with 870 of those in elementary school; 210 in middle school; and 410 in the high school.

– The 2020-2021 year projects to have a total of 1,540, with 880 of those in elementary school; 250 in middle school; and 410 in the high school.

Although those projections show a rise in the number of students over the next decade, Susan Brudvig said that the ADM (Average Daily Membership) number, which is what state financial support is based on, will not grow at the same levels as the student head count figures. This is in part due to the fact that kindergarten students are counted as only half of a student by the state because they are not there everyday; and pre-kindergarten students are not counted at all.

Susan Brudvig also said that the national economy will play a role in numbers, albeit very slight. She noted that should the economy pick up, more people may choose to move or to build a new home, which could raise student numbers, or shift them into different areas of the county.

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Don Dyck and Jerry Moore then talked with the board about their findings in terms of facilities and capacities. They told the board that they worked with two formats of numbers: “Optimum” average classroom capacities and “Functional” average classroom capacities.

Under “optimum” conditions, classrooms with kindergarten through second grade would have 18 students in each; while grades 3-6 would have 24 students in each. Under “functional” conditions, classrooms with kindergarten through second grade would have 24 students in each; while grades 3-6 would have 26 students in each.

Based on these numbers, the study found that Jefferson-Craig has an optimum capacity of 424 students and Switzerland County Elementary has an optimum capacity of 468 students for an overall optimum capacity of 892 students for the current elementary schools. Jefferson-Craig has an functional capacity of 526 students and Switzerland County Elementary has an functional capacity of 468 students for an overall functional capacity of 1,123 students for the current elementary schools.

The speakers noted that through the demographic data, the county has a maximum forecast enrollment of 890 students, so they felt that with the two buildings, the schools could still function at an optimum level.

The feasibility study then went to an “Educational Adequacy Assessment”, which ranks buildings on a sliding scale from 0-100 on functionality.

The study showed Jefferson-Craig with a score of 67, which means that the building needs minor improvements, particularly in the areas of guidance, art, music, physical education, and science space.

The study showed Switzerland County Elementary with a score of 59, which means that the building needs major improvements, particularly in the areas of guidance, art, music, cafeteria space, performing arts, science, technology, and library space.

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With that data, the group proposed three different scenarios:

– Keep Jefferson-Craig a K-6 school and Switzerland County Elementary a Pre K-5 school; upgrade Switzerland County Elementary; and do some redistricting to balance enrollment.

– Make both Jefferson-Craig and Switzerland County Elementary Pre K-6 schools, upgrade Switzerland County Elementary; and do some redistricting to balance enrollment.

– Make Switzerland County Elementary a Pre K-3 primary building and Jefferson-Craig a 4-6 intermediate building; upgrade Switzerland County Elementary; and do some redistricting to balance enrollment.

Based on their study, the team felt that the best case scenario was to go with the first option, which would basically leave things as they are with some upgrades and redistricting.

They did allow that they felt either of the first two options would work, based on what the school board felt was in the best interest for this school district; but they did not feel that the third option of creating primary and intermediate buildings was an option here because of the topography of the county and the length of time that students are riding school buses.

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Want to read the entire feasibility study? The school corporation, in an effort to bring the entire document and data to the community, has posted the entire study online.

Parents and others may view the entire document by downloading it at: http://www.schs.switzerland.k12.in.us/scproposal.pdf