A growing student population and the current rate of per-pupil funding will continue to be a challenge for School District 27J during the 2013-14 school year.
Superintendent Chris Fiedler said space for students, especially at the high school level, is a concern for him.
Preliminary enrollment at Brighton High School was 1,869 as of Aug. 2 – about 50 more students than last year – which Fiedler says is the highest it’s ever been. Preliminary enrollment numbers at Prairie View High School have increased about 70 students over last year’s enrollment to 1,848 students.
Fiedler said he expects those numbers to fluctuate a little but when it’s all said and done, he believes both schools will have more than 1,800 students each this fall. In order to adjust to the influx of high school students, Fiedler the number of traveling teachers will be increased at BHS and the program will be implemented at PVHS.
“One of the biggest impacts is the number of students, who more than likely (will) not have full seven-period schedules. Typically, juniors and seniors do not have seven classes, they may have five or six a day,” he said. “As we’ve struggled with space, that has become true for sophomores and some freshman, which isn’t ideal, but that’s kind of where we’re at.”
According to Fielder, administrators are exploring a number of options including reinstating split schedules, extended day schedules and a third high school.
Fiedler said it’s not a matter of “if” the district needs another high school but “when.” He said a third high school is an $80-million solution and that all projections show the district will continue to grow but that the district will have to seek bond funds in a future election.
Fiedler said administrators are also watching Initiative 22, the New School Finance Act, which would increase 27J’s per-pupil revenue by $720 per student, to about $6,920. The district’s current per-pupil revenue, with the $48 mill-levy override, is $6,200.
He said it would mean a 10-percent increase in funding for 27J, which he describes as a “game changer.” According to Fiedler, the district would be able to reduce class sizes, recruit more teachers and potentially end academic fees and tuition costs to families.
“If that’s successful in November, we would not see the new funding until the fall of 2016,” he said.
Despite these challenges, Fiedler says the district remains committed to providing students with the best education possible. Thinking classrooms will continue to be implemented throughout the district.
According to Fiedler, educators will continue to work towards actualizing that as part of the district’s instructional model as well as intervention flow charts He said the district is ahead of the state with teacher’s effectiveness, as every teacher has been evaluated annually over the last three years.
He said based upon student achievement results, students continue to improve.
“We’re not where we need to be, by any stretch, in terms of making every classroom a thinking classroom in the district,” he said. “That’s the goal of course – but we’re making progress.”