Lindbergh officials focus on enrollment growth at high school

Lindbergh won’t seek additional funds from voters to address growth at LHS

Lindbergh officials focus on enrollment growth at high school

By Mike Anthony

Lindbergh Schools’ explosive enrollment growth at the elementary and middle-school levels is headed toward one place — Lindbergh High School.

District officials last week took the initial step to address the anticipated enrollment increase at the high school.

“… We are here tonight to start a discussion and alert the community that growth, as we all knew would happen eventually, is headed toward the high school,” Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Brian McKenney told the Board of Education Dec. 8.

Managing the enrollment growth will not involve seeking a tax-rate increase or a bond issue, he emphasized.

“One thing we want to be clear right off the bat, we’re not here tonight to propose any kind of request for additional resources from the community, bond issues, et cetera,” McKenney said. “What we are here to do is to ask for the board and the administration to begin thinking strategically about how we can address this challenge. As you know, LHS is already one of the largest high schools in the state, at over 2,000 students, and it’s continuing to grow.”

Planning for growth is not new for Lindbergh, he said, citing the expansion of the district’s elementary schools, the addition of a middle school and construction of a new elementary school that is underway on the former Dressel School site.

“Important numbers to note — by 2020, we expect Lindbergh High School to grow to over 2,500 students … So that’s like adding an entire grade level to what’s currently at the high school,” McKenney said. “Even without additional students moving into the district, LHS will get bigger, simply through the matriculation of the already-larger class sizes at the elementary and middle levels.”

“So the central question we need to ask tonight is: Where do those 500 additional students go? …,” he asked, turning over the discussion to Principal Eric Cochran, who outlined the current status of Lindbergh High School.

“Every classroom that we have currently access to on the high school campus is being used,” he said. “We’re already seeing increased class sizes at Lindbergh. Core class sizes, in particular, are growing very crowded. We have several that are at 28, some 29, and those are definitely on the high side.”

One high school teacher does not have a classroom and must travel to a different classroom each hour of the school day, Cochran said, adding, “Which, of course, makes it difficult for students who wish to seek out that teacher for extra help. If we get to the point where we need to add any additional staff to handle growth, I have nowhere to put them.”

Current growth is being handled right now, thanks largely to Proposition G, he noted.

To fund the construction of the new Dressel Elementary School, district voters approved a $34 million bond issue in April 2014. Besides the new elementary school, Prop G — for Growth — funded some critical needs at the high school, including doubling the size of the cafeteria, creating two science classrooms from existing classrooms, converting a record-storage room into two new classrooms, modernizing the library and replacing the wood floor and bleachers in Gymnasium 3.

“Prop G has been kind of a Band-Aid for some of those things that we knew were coming down the road. For example, the cafeteria addition, which is indeed beautiful, is going to help us accommodate the students who are coming when it comes to lunch time,” Cochran said. “And it also provides an additional meeting space that we can use for various other activities. The new Gym 3 provides a location for all of our students to meet at one time, and we’ve been able to test it out once with an all-school assembly and it was successful so far …”

While the record-storage room was converted into two new classrooms to provide much-needed space, more instructional space is needed, he said.

“Additional classrooms are critically needed to allow the high school to maintain those class sizes and to continue offering all of the programs that are now available to students,” Cochran said. “So a second essential question I guess would be: How do we get there?”

Picking up the discussion, Communications Director Beth Johnston said, “… We know that the way we don’t get there right now, as Dr. McKenney mentioned, is to ask our community for a tax-levy increase or a bond issue for new construction. So we will not be asking our residents for additional financial support at this time.

“We all know how fortunate we are to have a community that supported us over the past decade to prepare for growth and take pro-active steps so those expected increases in enrollment can be addressed, especially at the elementary and middle-school levels. Now we’re looking at the high school. We need to work with the resources that we already have …”

Johnston recapped the support the district has received from district residents in handling growth over the past 10 years, including voter approval of Prop R 2006, Prop R 2008 and Prop L in 2010. She also cited voter approval of Prop G that is funding the new Dressel Elementary and the improvements at Lindbergh High, concluding with the question: “How do we address the growth, working with the resources that we have?”

McKenney said, “… This is a very preliminary and first step in strategic planning. We’ve seen this planning process achieve, as has been mentioned, very successful solutions with regard to addressing growth in past years. We’re currently considering all feasible options with the Cabinet and administration at this point.

“We know that the work that is left to be done is to develop creative solutions that are achievable within the resources that we have. I would say that it’s no mystery that non-instructional programs at LHS are taking up a lot of their space, and so we’re carefully looking at that piece of the equation. We’ve been able to relocate just a very few programs at this point, including the records room that was mentioned over to Long (Elementary), but more should be done …”

Board President Kathy Kienstra asked, “… Regarding the district resources or the district-level programs as you’re talking about, if you were able to move those elsewhere, how many classrooms would that free up at the high school?”

Based on discussions with Cochran and Executive Director of Planning and Development Karl Guyer, McKenney said, “It’s about 20,000 square feet. When you look at that in classroom space, that’s about eight to 10 additional classrooms when you add in office spaces, restrooms and other ancillary spaces …”