Lindbergh panel ‘most significant’ in recent history

Task force studies student overcrowding at Sperreng


The Lindbergh Board of Education last week established what Superintendent Jim Sandfort termed “the most significant committee assembled by the district to report back to the board” in the past four or five years.

The Board of Education voted unanimously Oct. 9 to establish a task force to recommend an appropriate response to space concerns at Sperreng Middle School, which has an enrollment of 1,323 pupils.

Possible options to address the space issues at Sperreng discussed during a special meeting on Oct. 6 included construction of an addition to the middle school or the reconfiguration of the district’s existing facilities to house two middle schools.

As discussed, Sperreng and Truman Elementary School would be middle schools serving pupils in grades five through eight with early childhood education, or ECE, at both sites.

The district’s existing elementary schools would serve pupils in kindergarten through fourth grade. Concord, the current site of the ECE program, would be renovated into a fifth elementary school.

“… This probably is the item that took the longest with the group on Saturday, both in presentation by the administration and extended discussion by the board, and this recommendation comes in response to concerns for space limitations at Sperreng and the possibility of reviewing the impact of those space limitations on organization throughout the district — huge, significant authorization the administration is requesting this evening,” Sandfort said at the Oct. 9 board meeting.

“Recommended motion is the Board of Education authorize the establishment of a district oversight committee to address the concerns of space limitations at Sperreng and potential for district reorganization …,” he added.

The motion to form the Demographic Response Task Force was made by board Secretary Vic Lenz and seconded by board member David Peek.

After the vote was taken, Sandfort said, “We want to thank the board for that recommendation and that authorization. This is going to be the most significant committee assembled by the district to report back to the board probably in the last four or five years because of the potential impact …”

The task force will be chaired by Nancy Rathjen, who serves as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. The administration is seeking recommendations for people to serve on the task force.

Besides bringing forth recommendations to address space concerns at Sperreng, the committee will be asked to address questions about appropriate size for both middle schools and elementary schools.

The approved motion calls for the Demographic Response Task Force to present its recommendations to the Board of Education in April.

During the Oct. 6 special meeting, board members were presented demographic information that showed a steady increase in enrollment is projected at Sperreng Middle through the 2011-2012 school year.

By the 2011-2012 school year, projections indicate Sperreng will have an enrollment of 1,370 pupils.

Research by Jerry Valentine, a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri-Columbia and one of the premier middle-school experts, indicates the optimum middle-school size ranges from 800 to 1,200 with an enrollment closer to 800 considered the ideal.

The options to address Sperreng’s space concerns discussed during the special meeting were prepared by an administrative review team that was charged by the board with reviewing enrollment data and demographic capacity, preparing options and then listing pros and cons for each option.

The administrative review team was comprised of Rathjen; Rick Francis, assistant superintendent for personnel; Karl Guyer, executive director of planning and development; Steve Suess, Kennerly Elementary principal; Charlene Ziegler; director of early childhood education; and school board members Vic Lenz and Bob Foerstel.

At one point during the Oct. 6 discussion, Sandfort said, “… The concern I think has been with the space needs at Sperreng and what needs to be done with that campus.

“And one of the options was you could build up, you could build out or you could reconfigure. During the course of this process, one of the questions that came up (was) would you have the capacity within the existing building structures of the district to reconfigure? And the answer to that has been: Yeah, you could reconfigure and make it all happen,” he said.

“The current discussion is not a recommendation. It’s simply a possibility. You have existing property. You have existing buildings … You do have the capacity to do some restructuring — if that’s what would be recommended. You don’t have the option of going up (at Sperreng). I think Karl (Guyer) has essentially ruled that out.

“You do not have the option of going up, so that takes that off. Could you go out on Sperreng? You could go out rather than do any of the reorganization, but then you run into there’s not a lot of property there. The footprint of the entire campus is not that large and it doesn’t appear that it’s suddenly going to double in size,” Sandfort said.

“So given all those considerations and not a recommendation that yeah, we want to do this, we need to bring some people together from all the constituencies in the district that would be impacted and say: We’ve got a space concern at Sperreng. We need to take a look at that. What are the best ideas and possibilities out there and let’s begin to attach costs to those, and acceptable levels of what a community wants.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to re-envision what the district could be, but it’s going to take a lot of discussion …,” Sandfort said, later adding, “… It will be a wonderful discussion because what you’re really doing is you’re planning the next generation’s vision for Lindbergh School District.”

In a separate matter Oct. 9, the board voted unanimously to charge the administration “with designing and implementing a district warehouse for the school system.”

Board members and administrators have been discussing for some time, including at the Oct. 6 special meeting, the construction of a central warehouse that could cost roughly $2.5 million. No site has been determined, though the board has discussed two potential locations on the Lindbergh High School campus.

One potential site would be on the former Winheim property the district purchased that is adjacent to the Administration Building on the west side of the campus. The second possible site is on the Gym 3 parking lot on the east side of the campus.

On Oct. 6, more specific plans for the Gym 3 parking lot site were presented by Guyer, and the board discussed funding the project from existing revenues. Board members also indicated a desire to review other potential sites within the district.