By Colin Hogan
Members of the Fulton City School District Board of Education say they want to explore all possible options for addressing enrollment disparity among the district’s four elementary schools as they proceed with a study on the matter this coming school year.
The board recently authorized a study into possible solutions to an imbalance among enrollment numbers in the elementary schools, which will be conducted during the 2015-16 school year. The study will examine whether the district would benefit from a realignment of those buildings’ grade level configurations, along with other alternatives that might be prudent in helping balance out enrollment across the schools.
“We have a parameter in the district that we keep class sizes at 25 students or less. We don’t exceed 25, and younger grades we prefer to keep even lower than that if we can,” explained Superintendent Bill Lynch.
Based on anticipated enrollment figures at each school, the district could have a challenge keeping all elementary class sizes within its benchmark.
School officials say they’re interested in finding out if by consolidating grade levels among sister schools (schools that are on the same side of the river) through a realignment, they could reliably balance out those class sizes. They say, theoretically, each side of the river could have one elementary school that houses grades K-3, and one that houses grades 4-6, rather than having four separate K-6 facilities.
For example, district officials anticipate that Granby Elementary, which currently has three fourth-grade sections, will have about 80 students enrolled in that grade during the 2015-16 school year, causing those class sizes to exceed 25 students. Yet, its sister school, Lanigan Elementary, is expected to only have about 57 students spread among its three sections. If those six fourth-grade sections were consolidated to one building, class sizes could stay below the 25-student benchmark (23-24 students per class).
David Cordone, president of the school board, said he and other board members are eager to find a solution to enrollment disparity and the staffing issues it may cause, but want to be sure all options — not just a realignment — are explored before setting a course of action.
“We recognized that (a realignment) is one of the options that could be looked at, but is it the only option?” Cordone said.
Cordone said the board wants to thoroughly explore the concept, both in how it would work for the district and how the community at large would respond, before moving forward with any changes.
“If such a change is going to impact four buildings, there are going to be staff and students in each of those buildings impacted,” Cordone said. “We need to make sure we really know what all that is going to entail.”
One possible alternative to a realignment that Cordone mentioned would be to redraw the catchment areas (i.e. the boundaries that outline which households are assigned to a particular school) in a way that would balance enrollment numbers.
One of Cordone’s concerns with realignment, he said, is that it adds another school-to-school transition as students progress through grades K-12. He said research shows that students benefit from having fewer of those transitions during their time in school.
Cordone said details on how the study will be conducted still need to be worked out, but noted that the district would be working closely with parents, faculty/staff and community members through the process.
By Colin Hogan