Opening of new middle school will bring bus route changes, could bring attendance zone changes

Opening of new middle school will bring bus route changes, could bring attendance zone changes

The expected opening next fall of Pulaski County Middle School will bring with it changes in the school system’s transportation routes. School officials believe those changes present an opportunity to also look at making changes in elementary school attendance zones at the same time.

At a meeting of the School Board on Tuesday, School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers told board members that Pulaski Elementary is experiencing an increase in enrollment of 5 to 6 students per year – primarily through kindergarten signups.  Other schools, he said, are experiencing a decline in enrollment.

According to figures he presented Tuesday, Pulaski Elementary is at 95 percent capacity currently. The school’s maximum capacity is 600 students.

Siers said Critzer Elementary is at 92 percent capacity. The school’s maximum is 500 students.

Dublin Elementary’s enrollment, he said, has declined somewhat and is at 89 percent capacity, with a maximum capacity of 555.

At Riverlawn Elementary, where maximum capacity is 660 students, the school’s enrollment is currently at 61 percent capacity.

And at Snowville Elementary, current capacity is down to 50 percent in a school that has a maximum capacity of 300 students.

“This would be a good year to make changes [in attendance zones] since we’ll already be shaking things up,” Siers said.

He stressed, however, no changes in attendance zones have to be made right away.

“But we’ll probably have to in the next five years,” he added.

Siers presented the school board with three options on dealing with uneven enrollment at the elementary level.

Those options with their benefits and concerns are:

Option 1: Restructure Critzer and Pulaski Elementary so one would be a Primary (pre-K through 2nd grade) school and the other an Intermediate (3rd grade – 5th grade) school.

Siers said the benefits of this option would include providing more opportunities for collaboration between grade level teachers; it would be easier to respond to fluctuations in enrollment allowing teachers to move up or down a grade, and it would be easier for teachers to share resources.

Concerns about this option, Siers said, are that such a restructuring would be a large undertaking while simultaneously trying to open the new middle school. It would also add an additional transportation stop to all bus routes in the Pulaski area. And, it would impact about half the elementary teachers and administrators in the Pulaski area and all the students.

Option 2: Revise all elementary attendance zones.

Benefit: Provide a better enrollment balance at each school with each being at 75 to 80 percent capacity.

Concerns: Since the population growth is in Pulaski, the shift would likely mean that some students living in the Town of Dublin would fall into Riverlawn’s attendance zone. It would be a large undertaking while trying to open Pulaski County Middle School. And it would impact a large number of students and teachers.

Option 3: Absorb the 2nd Pulaski Elementary attendance zone into the Snowville Elementary attendance zone.

Siers said most of the students in the 2nd Pulaski Elementary attendance zone are in Draper and travel through the Critzer zone to attend Pulaski Elementary. This option would transfer them instead to Snowville Elementary.

Benefits: Snowville would get closer to capacity at 75 percent and the move would free up space at Pulaski Elementary. It is the least disruptive to students and teachers, affecting about 60 to 70 students and three teachers. It would make transportation changes easier in regard to the new middle school.

Concerns: The move would make for a longer bus ride of about 15 minutes more each way. It would take students out of schools where they have been successful. And parent access for student sign-in and sign-out would be more difficult at Snowville.

Siers told the board that Option 3 would be the administration’s recommendation to the board at this point because it would be less disruptive to students and teachers. That option would create two classes at each grade level at Snowville with 16 to 17 students in each class.

Again, however, Siers stressed that nothing has to be done this year, but as Pulaski Elementary’s enrollment keeps growing, something will have to be done in the next five years.

Siers suggested holding a meeting at Snowville Elementary and invite all parents from Snowville and Pulaski Elementary. That meeting has been set for Oct. 15 and invitations will go out to parents in the next week or so.

School Board member Beckie Cox noted that a proposed new housing development in the area of the new middle school could prompt even more changes in the future.

By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot