School districts continue to grow as overcrowding takes place in the classrooms
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in fall 2017, about 50.7 million students attended public elementary and secondary schools in the United States. Of these, 35.6 million are in prekindergarten through eighth grade and 15.1 million will be in grades 9 through 12. An additional 5.2 million students were expected to attend private elementary and secondary schools. The fall 2017 public school enrollment is slightly higher than the 50.6 million enrolled in fall 2016.
As student enrollment increases, so does the need for additional space in classrooms. If space is unavailable, sometimes portable buildings are needed to teach the overflow of students from the school buildings or district lines may be redrawn. If funding is available, additional schools are built or current ones are remodeled and expanded.
Laurel Public Schools, the 10th largest district in Montana, is dealing with overcrowding in all of its schools. It’s expected to become a bigger problem within the next five years because the district has already surpassed projected enrollment. Taxpayers will be tasked to vote in November on a $52.5 million bond request for the future of public schools in Laurel.
The project includes a remodel of West Elementary School and conversion of South Elementary School to the Laurel High School Career and Technical Campus. A new 3-5 grade elementary school will be built on 30 acres at the intersection of Yard Office Road and Eleanor Roosevelt Street. This new school would effectively replace Graff Elementary School. Administration would then move into the vacated Graff building and conduct survey on what to do with the current administration building, which is the former middle school. A tear-down would cost roughly $800,000 due to asbestos, but there is interest in purchase of the building.
In North Carolina, the Moore County Board of Education approved a resolution to classify the crowding at the Sandhills Farm Life and Vass-Lakeview elementary schools as an emergency situation. The board of commissioners indicated that such a declaration is essential to bypass voter consideration of funding for a new elementary school, estimated at $30.8 million, to relieve that crowding and serve a growing section of Southern Pines.
To have a chance of opening in 2019, the elementary school project, called Area I, must receive approval this week by the Southern Pines Town Council. The council will review the preliminary site plan today for the Camp Easter Road school site just outside of Southern Pines. The school board is also considering a second resolution outlining projects that could be funded with a $142.7 million bond issue if the voters approve it next year. Those projects include a new Aberdeen elementary school and the Advanced Career Center in 2020, a new Southern Pines elementary school in 2021 and replacement of Pinehurst Elementary in 2022.
In Washington, the Kelso School District presented a $98.6 million facilities improvement plan to the school board that would call for repurposing Catlin Elementary School and rebuilding Beacon Hill and Wallace Elementary schools. Including construction assistance funds from the state would put the plan’s total price tag at $136.9 million.
The plan would also include construction of new elementary school at the district’s 10-acre Lexington site. There would also be upgrades to the district’s athletic facilities, modernizing Huntington Middle School and Carrolls Elementary and making districtwide safety and security upgrades. If a new school bond passes in February, construction would begin immediately on Wallace Elementary and the Lexington site.
In Oregon, two Grants Pass middle schools that were built in the 50s and 60s have overcrowding issues and are not outfitted or equipped to meet the needs of the students and staff. The school board has discussed putting a $150 million bond vote on the May 2018 ballot, but approved an architectural study to get a more accurate cost for two middle schools. There are also plans to add heating, ventilation and air conditioning to three elementary schools. The board will need to pass a formal resolution around January to get the 2018 bond levy on the May ballot.
In Maryland, Baltimore County officials plan to include money for two new high schools in the proposed fiscal year 2019 budget, which will be released next year. The schools would be expected to serve the Towson area and the central-northeast area of the county to eliminate overcrowding. A new Towson High School is expected to be built by 2022. The school system projects that Towson High will be 456 students over state-rated capacity by 2026. The same study indicates that two schools in the central-northeast corridor of the county also face overcrowding — Dulaney High School by 188 students and Perry Hall High School by 234 students.
A multiyear plan is underway by the county called Schools for Our Future program. It is a $1.3 billion renovation project to modernize older buildings. Renovation projects in that program include Woodlawn and Patapsco high schools, which are underway; and Lansdowne High, which the board said would need to be rebid.