Saturday, November 9, 2013

Will there be enough capacity?

The Iowa City School administration will present a revised phasing plan for the Facilities Master Plan to the school board on Tuesday November 12. I have been advocating on behalf of (a) not closing Hoover, and (b) not using Hoover as a swing school. The revised proposal addressed all of my concerns about not using Hoover as a swing school, and for that I am grateful.

Unfortunately, I believe the plan is still problematic for different reasons, and it should be revised again. I have two major, but related, concerns. The first concerns capacity. I worry about the small amount of wiggle room between overall projected enrollment in the district, according to the DeJong-Richter report  and the overall capacity available on the elementary level at the end of the phasing plan in 2022-2023.

 In the table, I make a number of very minimal assumptions that will most likely err insofar as they are too conservative. For instance, I am projecting no growth at the preschool level from 2012-2013 to 2022-2023. Furthermore, I am treating a preschool student the same as a K-6th grade student, but there are fewer preschool children per class than K-6 children per class. Additionally, I am assuming that special programs -- such as Hoover's autism programs -- are included in the enrollment projections. I am not certain about whether that is actually so. Lastly, I'm assuming that no schools will be under capacity for external reasons (e.g., geography). Yet, even under these conservative assumptions, we are projected to only have 134 empty seats over the entire district. That amounts to 1.5% of overall capacity. A slight bump in growth and we are back in modulars after all our new building are up and open.

It gets worse. This problem is most acute under the revised plan for North Liberty, Coralville, and Western parts of Iowa City, and it is particularly bad before the new North Elementary School is slated to be available in 2020-2021 (after it is used as a swing school for Lincoln the prior year). The table shows overall figures for 2022-2023, and more importantly, it shows 2018-2019 data. Remember that the conservative assumptions above are in effect here too. Even more so, since I'm not including any preschoolers in these figures. Still, we will be overcapacity by about 339 students in North Liberty. 134 students in Coralville, and 308 students from the West part of town. I give a hat tip to some North Corridor parents who alerted me to this problem

Looking at these figures made me ask a number of questions that I will examine in a subsequent post about what the result of the revised phasing plan will do to the feeder system. I don't have answers to those questions at this time, but it is important that they be addressed: which elementary schools will ultimately feed into the new North High School, and which will ultimately feed into West and City High? And how do our construction priorities fit into this feeding system?

I am also trying to think of ways to tweak the plan in order to address these concerns. What do you think? How can these problems be resolved?


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