The Waupaca School Board plans to keep Chain O’ Lakes Elementary School open for the foreseeable future.
Dr. David Poeschl, the district administrator, told the board at its Feb. 18 meeting that projected kindergarten enrollment for next year justified continuing the plan the board approved in December 2011.
At that time, the board approved to begin shifting two classrooms per year from the Chain to Waupaca Learning Center.
The board also agreed in 2011 to review enrollment figures, finances and facility costs in the future before making a final decision regarding Chain O’ Lakes Elementary.
This year, there are a total of eight classes at the Chain.
At the Feb. 18 meeting, Poeschl recommended reducing the Chain to a total of six classrooms – two kindergarten, two first grade and two second grade.
Poeschl noted a slight increase in kindergarten enrollment in Waupaca.
Enrollment counts in September 2007 and 2008 showed 167 and 166 kindergarten students.
That count dropped to 145 kindergartners in September 2009 and remained in the mid to low 140s for the next three years.
In September 2012, the kindergartner count rose to 165 and is projected to be the same or even higher next year.
“The following year is expected to be back around the mid 140s, while the year after that is expected to be back to mid 160s,” Poeschl said, noting next year’s projections are based on the number of 4-year-old children who have been screened for kindergarten in the Waupaca area. Projections beyond next year are more tentatively based on local birth rates.
Poeschl said enrollment projections can change drastically over the summer as families move into and out of the district.
He further noted the district must have an 18-to-1 student-teacher ratio in kindergarten through third grade in order to receive SAGE funding.
Poeschl said the difference between 145 and 165 kindergarten students is significant when determining how many classrooms and teachers are needed to ensure classes remain at 18 or fewer students.
“I don’t want to move everyone into the Learning Center and be overcrowded,” Poeschl said.
There will be eight empty classrooms at the Chain and an estimated two empty classrooms at WLC next year if the number of kindergarten students remains at the same level as this year.
At tne Chain, kindergarten and first-grade classrooms will be on the first floor, while second-grade and and music, art and computer classes will be on the second floor of the building.
Poeschl said that while there may be only two empty classrooms at WLC in the 2013-14 school year, there may be more empty classrooms if the size of the kindergarten class returns to its historically lower levels.
“The fact this year’s and next year’s kindergarten classes are around 165 compared to the 145 average the previous three years means we have used four more classrooms than anticipated for that purpose,” Poeschl said.
“In addition, we have used at least two classrooms to expand special education services simply because we had the room,” Poeschl said. “They could be condensed if we had to.”
Poeschl said the school board’s original decision was to move slowly and monitor enrollments rather than to close the Chain.