A Wright City R-II School District committee has recommended the district maximize existing space as long as possible while building bonding capacity for a new high school on land that the district purchased in 2010.
This recommendation comes after a review of enrollment data, projected student population trends and how well current school facilities will meet these needs in the near future.
Recommendations from the enrollment and facilities study group, comprised of parents, teachers and administrators, were presented during the May 17 board meeting. The group was headed by Jack Sanford, the district’s facilities operations director.
“Back in the fall, after we had looked at enrollment numbers based on census and birth data, the board chartered an enrollment and facilities study group to analyze our space and options for how buildings could be used in the future under different growth scenarios,” said Superintendent Dr. Chris Gaines.
Gaines said the group looked at options for high-, medium- and low-growth scenarios.
One key and immediate driver for planning, Gaines said, is a large kindergarten class enrolled for next year. This surge along with growth in other lower grades is expected to create a classroom boom as these young students move up through the school system. Gaines said that in addition to a large kindergarten class, six second-grade classrooms are planned for the fall to meet enrollment demands.
“The recommendation of the group is to monitor the situation and try to live within our existing facilities for as long as possible so that we can build bonding capacity for a new high school building,” Gaines told the board.
He said the recommendation was guided by the fact that the district already has the land purchased two years ago for a new high school. It would be in the district’s best interest to focus on bonding capacity to build the school as planned, he said.
“The general direction is to maximize existing space at our east (elementary), west (elementary) and at middle school facilities and work toward this longer range solution instead of trying to do a little bit of addition here and there,” said Gaines. “We would add staff as necessary instead of on a predicted schedule, since there are still unknowns.”
Gaines explained the ripple effect of bigger populations in the smaller grades.
“We have to capture new rooms for more classrooms as these students move up,” he said. “This means potentially moving the academy back to rental space or to the high school if space is available, and possibly pushing fifth-grade into the middle school building to allow for enough space at west (elementary).”
Gaines said he believes that by shifting things around, the district likely can continue to operate within its current facilities until the 2017-18 school year.
To enable the district to build on the new land in that general time frame, Gaines said, the district would need to alter its debt tax rate. At the current tax rate, the district would not be able to accomplish a building project so soon.
“Every year, we typically roll back our debt tax rate by 60 to 70 cents,” Gaines said. “We could tax at a higher rate to pay the debt earlier to push the ability to build sooner.”
The board will hear more specific finance scenarios at a meeting later this summer.