Superintendent’s Notes ISD #110 – Overcrowding, by the numbers

Seven hundred and forty eight. Since 2008, Waconia Schools has grown by 748 students.
No matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of growth in six years. Here’s another number: 1,262. In the past 10 years, we have grown by 1,262 students. That’s an average of 126 students per year, even during the economic downturn of 2008-10.
Here’s another one: 1,385. That’s our elementary enrollment, including kindergarten through grade 4. Those 1,385 students are in two buildings that have a capacity of 1,290. In fact, every one of our schools exceeds the rated capacity of the building.
Here’s another way to look at the growth. When the class of 2014 (this year’s seniors) began school in 2001, their entire kindergarten class was 177 students. As 12th graders, there are 290 students in that same class. In fact, there are now three grade levels that exceed 300, with three more grade levels very close to the 300 mark. The Waconia District had 2,587 students in 2004-05, and will be close to 4,000 students in 2015-16.
Given these numbers, what have we done to maintain the instructional programs of the schools?
In order to accommodate the growth over the past five years, we have added passing time to the high school, as our students simply could not get through the crowded halls in time to make it to their next class. At the elementary schools, we have taken classroom spaces that were previously used for preschool, Special Education, small group instruction or before/after school programs, and turned them into regular elementary classrooms.
At the high school, we have modified our lunch schedule, adding another lunch period in order to seat everyone. At both the middle school and the high school, some teachers are sharing classroom space rather than having their classroom available for a preparation period. Some of our concerts, activities, and our high school graduation ceremony required limiting the audience through tickets as a result of overcrowding.
At the District level, we have grown into the entire building at 512 Industrial Blvd, relocating classes from our elementary schools and special education cooperative to all of the spaces in the District Office/Community Education building. You may recall that a mere five years ago, we shared more than half of the space in the District Office Building with the Haven, a private counseling service, and with Carver-Scott Educational Cooperative. Both of those programs have been moved out to accommodate classes that were previously in our four school buildings.
Another sign of our growth occurs at the co-curricular level. As a current member of the Wright County Conference, we find ourselves needing to look at a new conference. When we joined the conference in 1988, we were the second smallest school. Now we are the largest by more than 100 students, and we have double the enrollment of five of the nine schools. Our Community Education recreational programs are limited by the lack of field space for soccer, softball, and baseball.
It is fair to ask how long we can continue to squeeze kids into buildings that are just too small for our current and future enrollment. In 2014-15, we will need a minimum of four additional classrooms that simply are not available. The School Board will need to pursue leasing a minimum of four portable classrooms for two of our buildings beginning September 2014. While “trailers” in the school parking lot or lawn is not a preferred option, we need to provide a safe learning environment for our students
The Board recently approved a timeline to address facilities on a system-wide basis. Over the course of the 2013-14 school year, the School Board will be looking at options for additional facilities or expansion of existing buildings. In addition, the Board will analyze deferred maintenance needs, such as roof replacements, air conditioning, boilers, etc. The Board will meet with the city councils of the various communities, and will hold stakeholder listening sessions in early 2014.
I encourage all District residents to be engaged and participate in our future planning. Our current and future students are counting on our community to make thoughtful and informed decisions about our schools. Thank you in advance for your interest and involvement.