Franklin — Seeking a solution to an increasing elementary student population that strains class sizes at two of its five elementary schools, Franklin Public Schools last week took the first steps in developing a plan that could redraw boundaries.
Superintendent Steve Patz sent a letter to parents outlining the issue. He said the district wants to "more efficiently utilize our educational space and create a plan that will address current and future needs."
The emphasis is on relieving the swelling population at Robinwood Elementary and Pleasant View Elementary, Patz said.
"We'll know more after our third Friday count, but these two schools are experiencing space issues," Patz told NOW, referencing the enrollment count taken each year on the third Friday in September. "We don't know exactly how this happens, but there are a couple of reasons. Some families may have started out in a school's boundaries and moved but want to stay connected to the school. We do have district exceptions. If a student has gone to one school through fifth grade and the family moved, it doesn't make sense to make them go to another school for sixth grade. Those are examples. But with the current situation, we have to re-look at it."
By the numbers
As of the end of last year, Robinwood had 533 students, Pleasant View had 512, Country Dale had 418, Ben Franklin had 370 and Southwood Glen had 365.
Patz and Judy Mueller, director of human resources, said the ideal maximum class sizes are 24 students for kindergarten through second grade and 27 from third through sixth grade. When those numbers are exceeded, it normally can be handled by adding a teaching assistant or new sections, Patz said, but space limitations at Robinwood and Pleasant View prevent in-school expansion.
"At Robinwood, our art curriculum is delivered outside of the art classroom," Mueller said. "Physical education classes sometimes have two classes sharing the same space. The band room is not large enough. Students have to set up and take down their instruments in a multipurpose room."
The district has hired Martenson and Eisele, an engineering planning firm from Menasha. Planner Ken Jaworski is the project manager. His firm will use geocoding to map out the student population.
"We'll start out by coding each of the addresses where there are households with students," Jaworski said. "That's one variable, because there will be households with more than one student. You also look at the service area and if there are restrictions such as roads or other areas you may not want students to cross."
Choices depend on future
"We present a number of different scenarios based on the future as well as the current situation," Jaworski said. "You need to look five to 10 years out and look at things like any plans for expansion. The last thing you want to do is make adjustments every other year."
Once the scenarios are in place, Patz said, the district will present options to the public — hopefully by as early as late October.
"As we have always done, we want to communicate with our parents and let them know the extent of the issue and what we want to do. We'll have these information and listening sessions, and we'll bring the matter to the board for a final decision. We need to do that as early in this year as possible so that we have the appropriate time to make any needed and approved changes."
Patz said he knows that if boundaries are changed, it may not be well received by everyone.
"On the plus side, we feel all our schools are quality schools that are high performing," he said. "It may take some adjustment, but kids are very resilient and they make friends at which ever school they attend."
WHO: Franklin Public Schools
WHAT: considering new elementary school boundaries
WHEN: now through October
TIMING: meet with parents in late October or early November
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