Committee starts work to address Lindbergh’s increasing enrollment

Elementary schools impacted by district’s enrollment growth

By Mike Anthony

A 25-member Lindbergh Schools committee charged with making a recommendation to the Board of Education about how the district’s aggressive enrollment growth should be addressed began its work last week.

The District Growth Committee is chaired by Chief Financial Officer Charles Triplett and co-chaired by Brian McKenney, assistant superintendent for human resources, and Karl Guyer, executive director of planning and development. The committee is comprised of district staff, parents and business representatives.

During the Oct. 7 meeting, McKenney outlined how the district’s residential enrollment increased by 569 students from 2007-2008 to 2012-2013.

“… Lindbergh has been growing aggressively for the past five years. However, it’s not been felt and that is because as Lindbergh has grown in residential students, we have also had students from the VICC (Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corp.) transfer program … exiting as we have not taken more enrollment there …,” he said.

During that time, VICC enrollment declined 274 students because of Lindbergh’s decision to phase out its participation in the program. As a result, the net enrollment growth over the past five years has been 295 students, McKenney said.

Lindbergh’s official enrollment for the current school year is 6,115 students, which exceeded the district’s projections by 50 students, according to McKenney.

For the next five years, the district is prepared to address the enrollment growth at Lindbergh High School and the district’s two middle schools — Sperreng and Truman.

“… Middle schools, at least for the next five years, are in very good shape,” McKenney said. “The high school, we’ve got some things we can do. We’ve got some room at the high school. The high school for the next five years is in pretty good shape.”

But the growth is creating a problem at the district’s elementary schools, he said.

Four elementary schools — Sappington, Concord, Long and Crestwood — are designed for 500 students each. But three have exceeded their capacity — Sappington with 621 students, Concord with 577 students and Long with 551 students.

Crestwood is nearing capacity with 482 students, while Kennerly, designed for 450 students, exceeds capacity with 462 students.

From 2013 to 2018, McKenney projects residential enrollment will increase by 464 students.

“The remaining 65 of our students in the VICC program, they will graduate in that time,” McKenney said. “This number 464 does not include new developments and there are new developments — two that are significant. One over at Grant’s Farm is going to have about 125 houses. We estimate that we’ll get an average of one student from each home … So this 464 doesn’t have this additional 120 students added to it.”

Based on the district’s current class sizes of 20 students, an additional 464 students equals 23 additional classrooms and 23 additional teachers, which translates to one additional building, he said.

One option to address enrollment growth would be to do nothing, McKenney said.

“… There’s always an option to maintain the status quo and just try and get through a problem …,” he said, adding if nothing is done, class sizes will increase to 30 students per class. “Music, art rooms, libraries, staff work spaces, hallways, they all will be converted to classroom core space without any new classrooms.

“That creates a situation that Lindbergh has seen before, and it’s where art, music, those kinds of classes, they no longer have their own spaces and they called it ‘art on a cart’ back in the day. And it is a very real possibility if nothing is done …”

Triplett and McKenney later recommended against increasing class sizes, with McKenney, a former elementary school principal, saying, “… When I was a kid, elementary school was 35 kids in a classroom, and the teacher taught one lesson right down the middle. Twenty percent of the kids that were above that level were bored and 20 percent of the kids that were below that level were lost, OK?

“We don’t do that any more. Every kid can learn. We reach every kid. You get 35 kids in a classroom, that whole method goes away …”

Triplett provided some “homework” for committee members to study about possible solutions to the enrollment increase.

Those options include:

• Reorganizing grade-level configurations. For example, adding fifth grade to the middle schools.

• Adding additions to current schools.

• Adding an elementary school.

• Adding mobile classrooms, also called trailers.

• Renting classroom space.

• Reconfiguring current classrooms — for example, “art on a cart.”

The committee’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, at the district Early Childhood Education center, 4814 S. Lindbergh Blvd.