Reconfiguration could mean freshmen at high school

Douglas County School District is considering moving ninth-graders back to the high school and sixth-graders into the middle schools if declining enrollment continues, though any reconfiguration would likely be a couple years out.

In the 2007-08 school year, the district lost 93 students. This year, enrollment dropped by 207 students. If the trend continues, the district could rezone and close one elementary school in the Valley.

"No one likes rezoning," Superintendent Carol Lark said March 10 at Douglas High School. "Down the road, we will really have to look at the capacity of each school. In the budget situation, we can't continue to decline in enrollment and not seriously consider closing one school."

Closing a school would save the district approximately $2.4 million, but would result in a loss of employees and a loss in neighborhood proximity for a portion of students.

However, the district could move forward with reconfiguration and choose to keep all existing elementary schools open with lighter student loads.

Using current enrollment numbers, Lark discussed several scenarios.

Kindergartners through fifth-graders divided up between six existing sites in the Valley would mean 457 students at each school. Dividing up the same students across five sites, after closing one school, would translate into 549 students at each.

Pau-Wa-Lu and Carson Valley middle schools would gain 444 sixth-graders and lose 433 ninth-graders. The influx of freshman at high school would bounce the Douglas High student body to 1,858. At its peak, Douglas High housed 1,700 students.

"There is no way we could handle that (1,858) now," Lark said.

But she said if the time came, proceeds from the school continuation bond could be directed towards expansion of the high school, including expanding the commons area and science labs.

Lark said any reconfiguration would face obstacles. Ninth-graders at the high school could create more behavioral issues, as could sixth-graders at the middle school. Staffing of counselors and administrators would have to be adjusted.

But freshmen would also have more classes to choose from. Plus, the district could better align high school curriculum. Athletic programs could be consolidated as well.

School board members directed district staff to prepare a request for proposal for an outside consultant, someone who could develop a 5-20 year facility plan.

Staff members already have an empty school on their hands, Kingsbury Middle School, which was closed last year.

"We need professional advice," Lark said. "We can do whatever is best for the students, but laid out in a 5-year plan."

Board member Randy Green taught at Douglas High in the early 1990s when Pau-Wa-Lu was built, and freshmen were moved to the middle schools.

"I was not a big fan of the last time we restructured for facility use," he said. "We need to do it for the educational benefit."


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