Enrollment at Windsor elementary schools to be more balanced with new boundary changes
December 22, 2012
Four schools will have a different look when it comes to enrollment during the 2013-14 school year as a result of the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School Board's unanimous approval of new elementary school boundaries.
On the recommendation of the District Long Range Facility Planning Committee, Tozer Primary, Mountain View Elementary and Skyview Elementary schools will add more students from the Promontory and nearby Greeley areas, while Grandview will lose those students with the potential of adding more students due to building construction.
Currently, Grandview is at 94 percent capacity this year, with Tozer (64.4 percent), Mountain View (56.7 percent) and Skyview (68.4 percent) far below capacity.
With Skyview a landlocked school, meaning enrollment isn't growing because the neighborhoods around it are established and have no new construction, and Mountain View and Tozer having lost students to Range View in Severance after it opened three years ago, the district needed to make some boundary changes because of Grandview's near-capacity enrollment.
As a result, the southeast corridor (Promontory, Mountain Shadows) of the district that incorporates the Greeley area (almost to 76th Avenue in Greeley and even crosses U.S. 34 near Johnstown) will be shifted to ease the nearly full building at Grandview.
The long-range facility planning committee, which includes a mix of parents, teachers, administrators, community members and town planning staff from Severance and Windsor, recommended that students living in the Promontory area be moved to Skyview, while the other students nearby be shifted to Tozer and Mountain View.
Those schools are actually closer in distance than Grandview.
"There were parents that were surprised when they moved into that area that the bus took them past two other schools and dropped them off at Grandview," said Grandview principal Dave Grubbs. "We are aware that any change is going to cause some stress and some anxiety, and we're doing our best to help the families as much as we can."
Families of the 202 students at Grandview were notified of the changes, and two meetings at Tozer/Mountain View and Skyview were held for parents to get answers to questions, raise concerns, tour the schools and talk to the teachers. Eleven families from Skyview attended, and 21 families from Tozer/Mountain View attended.
"It's a little bit mixed reaction here obviously because we have been dealing with a lot of growth and getting bigger and having less space and being close to capacity the last couple of years," Grubbs said. "People are aware that we needed to make some changes, so it's not a shocker now that this has been proposed and accepted. The challenging part is that there's that sentimental attachment to the building. There are some great kids in those neighborhoods that we hate to see maybe leave us."
BETTER BALANCE OF STUDENTS
Projected changes for next year as a result of the boundary shift have Tozer adding 77 students (367 enrollment for an 81.6 percent capacity), Mountain View adding 73 (328 enrollment for a 72.9 percent capacity), Skyview adding 52 (360 enrollment for an 80 percent capacity) and Grandview losing 202 students (362 enrollment for a 60.3 percent capacity). New single-home construction at Windshire, as well as the new workforce housing development in that area, are expected to add to Grandview's numbers soon, said Re-4 superintendent Karen Trusler.
"In the last seven years I have been at Grandview, the average is probably 70 to 75 new kids per year," Grubbs said. "It's hard to say what that magic number is going to be next year knowing that some of those Greeley areas were definitely part of the growing numbers. With Windshire next door building new houses and other places coming available, we may grow. I think there are people not convinced we're going to shrink as much as the early numbers tells us to be prepared for."
Families still have the option of open enrollment at Grandview, but they would have to provide their own transportation versus having bus transportation from the district if they switch their kids to Tozer, Mountain View or Skyview.
"There is still some uncertainty," Grubbs said. "Families are going to have options to open enroll here, and it's hard to predict how many of those folks are going to take advantage of that because of transportation. Mountain View, Tozer and Skyview are three great schools. I try to put myself in those parents' shoes. If I had the opportunity to have my kid have transportation to a really good school, or I could drive them 20 minutes one way to take them to a different school, it would kind of put me in a tough spot. Kids are way more resilient than we give them credit for sometimes. They've got good schools to go to. I see it as a win-win for parents. They're definitely not being sent to these schools because they're being punished. It's a fact that we have been close to maxed out, and we're going to definitely be over that capacity next year."
NOT A SUDDEN CHANGE
The boundary changes have been on the district's plate for several years, but the long-range planning committee started meeting on the issue about a year ago.
"We started meeting in January 2012, so last school year, to re-examine enrollment and growth and to look at options for balancing elementary enrollment," said long-range planning committee chairwoman Cindy Scheuerman. "We then reported our recommendation to the board in April. We wanted to get the ball rolling early because we felt it was very important to have a final decision in place by the end of 2012/early 2013 so families would have plenty of time to consider their options for open enrollment. The in-district open enrollment application deadline is March 1, so we wanted to be sure parents knew what would be changing and had time to think about things before that deadline was on top of them."
The committee also shared current enrollment numbers and statistics with the board in October, and that's when Trusler sent letters to all the families in that area about a potential boundary change.
"We had a meeting with parents and hopefully answered their questions. We had positive feedback in regards to the first visit to our building," said Tozer principal Shelly Prenger, who added that there is the potential for an additional classroom in kindergarten, first and second grades. "We had teachers in classrooms, and I think that was an opportunity for them to at least get their foot in the door and see our school. We're going to welcome them with open arms, and hopefully it won't take too long for them to see the great things that go on at Tozer. I'm excited for the opportunity to have more students in our school."
UNDERSTANDING PARENTS' CONCERNS
Trusler said she understands the concern from parents having to move their kids from a school where they know the teachers, staff, programs and building. She said she received only four letters from parents voicing concerns.
"When you change to new buildings there is a concern at that time, but it's a different type of concern," Trusler said. "This concern is we're moving from one existing school to another existing school. We had three options. We can build a new school. That wasn't an option at this time. We can shift some boundaries. The other option was to not do anything, but class sizes would continue to escalate into the 30s, and that's not an option. The best option for our kids, the committee felt, would be to move forward to shifting some boundaries."
Scheuerman said the committee knew changes wouldn't be easy for some families.
"We know that any time changes have to be made it's tough on students and their families, but in the face of Grandview approaching capacity so rapidly and already facing overcrowding in some grades, we knew something had to change," she said. "The challenge was finding the best option that would provide for the needed balance in elementary enrollment while minimizing the impact on students yet still acting in a fiscally responsible manner."
The long-range planning committee had some tough decisions to make.
"It was an extremely tough decision to make because everyone on the committee understood that it's tough on families any time they have to transition to a new school and establish new relationships, but we also knew that balancing enrollment would benefit all the students," Scheuerman said. "The district really tries to keep elementary class sizes close to 25 and by shifting students to the schools with open classrooms, the district can add staff as we grow to keep class sizes from getting too large."
Scheuerman said a school operating below 70 percent of capacity begins to have problems with allocating staff and resources.
"So, the additional students at Tozer/Mountain View and Skyview are going to help those schools, as well as relieve the crowding at Grandview," she said.
Scheuerman said she was pleased with the committee's final recommendation and was glad to see that the board accepted it.
"While I know the transition will be tough for some families, we have great schools throughout our district, and I know Tozer/Mountain View and Skyview are both ready to welcome new families in with open arms and do anything they can to make the transition as smooth as possible for students and their families," Scheuerman said. "The end result is going to be schools that are at ideal capacities to best serve students and help them learn and in the end that's the goal, to educate our children the best we can."