Early enrollment numbers for next year’s kindergarten classes in the Union School District has administrators monitoring the possibility of another overcrowding situation.
According to the latest enrollment numbers from Beaufort Elementary, 53 kindergartners have been enrolled for next year’s class, with registration ending in August. At the beginning of this academic year, in total, Beaufort enrolled 51 kindergarten students.
Due to an uptick in kindergartners the day before school began this fall, Beaufort also filled its last open classroom, stoking the district’s fear of running out of room at another one of its elementary schools and making current enrollment a delicate situation.
Principal Kendra Fennessey said she and the administration are hoping the high-trending enrollment can be attributed to parents registering early, rather than closer to the August deadline. However, she said it’s possible the amount of students enrolling could just be higher than typical.
“Looking at it historically, we’ve screened more (students) than we typically have by now,” Fennessey said. “It’s sort of a sit-and-wait game until August. We watch the trends like we have in the past and that’s why we’re watching it so closely right now.”
If the current kindergarten enrollment were to rise, Fennessey said the school has a plan to alleviate possible overcrowding. She said the school can handle another influx, but would need to tweak its operations.
“If there’s more kids and we need to add a kindergarten classroom we’d just have to shuffle how we’re currently using some of our classrooms and some of our programming,” Fennessey said. “We definitely have a backup program so it’s not an issue where we wouldn’t have a class of kindergartners. We have a plan if we need it – it’s just about getting a little more creative.”
She said, however, the risk alone is a reason Prop Wildcats is important to the district.
The proposition, which the district spent a majority of last year ironing out in workshops and at monthly board meetings, stemmed from the risk of overcrowding throughout the district, and most notably, at Beaufort and Central elementary.
While Beaufort Elementary only recently filled its last classroom, Central Elementary did long ago. Since then, to avoid teachers having to teach wherever they could find room, the district bought modular units to house all kindergarten classes.
If approved, the proposition will fund the renovation and execution of several projects throughout the district, like building a new gym at Beaufort and repurposing the old gym into a new media center and four classrooms, that aim to fix overcrowding.
The funds will also be used to construct a new elementary school at district-owned land near East Central College. As part of the project, each elementary school’s grade makeup will be restructured, making the new elementary school, Beaufort and Central all preschool through fifth-grade settings.
Sixth-graders will move to the middle school, freeing up classrooms for students when there are bigger class sizes, or “bubbles,” moving through the school district.
Superintendent Dr. Steve Weinhold said Prop Wildcats will ensure the school district will be prepared for the next 20 to 30 years of population swings. He said, if the measure were to pass, the district wouldn’t need to worry about fitting students into schools.
“It’s definitely a concern and that’s why we’re looking to go to the voters to alleviate our overcrowding. We can do one or two extra kids at Beaufort but if we were to get a large influx before the end of the year it will be difficult. We’re already overcrowded and we don’t have any extra classrooms.”
Weinhold said while kindergarten enrollment is often hard to predict, the trend of growth in Union both residential and commercial suggest more students could be coming to the district in the coming years.
For Beaufort, Fennessey believes Prop Wildcats would ensure that she and her staff could teach however many students come through Beaufort’s doors. She said, until the voters decide, she’ll continue to play the waiting game on enrollment.
“We’re in situations where we’re tweaking things to make it work but we don’t have enough space as we would like in multiple scenarios,” Fennessey said. “It would be nice to be able to accommodate all classrooms with the space we’d like to. We’re just a little too close for comfort right now.”