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School district mulls making SKHS a four-year program
Freshmen could be lugging their backpacks around South Kitsap High School in the near future.
Since 1992, South Kitsap School District’s facility-planning efforts have promoted a conversion from junior highs to middle schools with ninth graders going to the high school and sixth graders to the middle schools.
SKSD facilities and operations director Tom O’Brien didn’t deviate from that plan at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
O’Brien presented the capital-facilities plan to the board, which is part of the Growth Management Act passed by the State Legislature in 1990.
Per that plan, the district is required to show an inventory of existing capital facilities; forecast of future enrollment; proposed location and capacities of new or expanded facilities; a six-year financial plan; and that the land-use element, capital-facilities plan element and financial plan are coordinated and consistent.
Kendrick’s enrollment study on Dec. 16 projects the district will grow from 5,140 elementary students this year to 5,793 by the 2014-15 school year. The heaviest burden is supposed to fall onto Sunnyslope Elementary, which is projected to grow from 519 to 1,156 students by October 2016.
O’Brien said that stems from the development at McCormick Woods.
“We see almost an explosive level of growth in our Sunnyslope service area,” O’Brien said. “We’re going to have to address that.”
Based on 24 students per classroom at the elementary level and two more in secondary classrooms, O’Brien said maintaining the current model would put district elementary schools 1,114 students above capacity by 2014.
While he said the district will need a new elementary school because of the growth in McCormick Woods, he said building one wouldn’t be enough without shifting the district’s sixth and ninth graders.
“What our enrollment projections show us is a bubble that will start with a high elementary school growth rate,” O’Brien said. “That’s going to be driven by birth rates and people buying new homes in the community. And those kids are going to move up to the high school.”
Also, while the shift from junior highs to middle schools would virtually eliminate the district’s capacity surplus in the elementary schools (1,114 to 199 in 2014), it would increase the burden on SKHS (313 to 1,172).
Because of that, O’Brien said the district will need to construct a new 1,200-student high school on district property along Old Clifton Road. Previous plans for the site called for a 1,800-student facility, but O’Brien said they won’t need that many immediately.
He said it would be constructed in such a manner that will allow for remodeling or an addition to accommodate 600 more students.
“When you look at the short-term need, it’s not as great as it was on our projections a couple of years ago,” O’Brien said.
He said another good reason to transition from junior highs to middle schools is because it follows a national trend.
There are four main models for educating the cluster of middle grades: fifth through eighth; sixth through eighth; seventh and eighth; and seventh through ninth.
According to the Middle Level Leadership Center, 45 percent of schools featured the seventh through ninth option in 1970. That fell to just 5 percent in 2000. During the same span, sixth through eighth institutions rose from 16 to 59 percent.
The enrollment-growth plan also calls for the replacement of Cedar Heights Junior High, which would become a new 900-student middle school.
O’Brien said that would provide a capacity increase of 295.
SKSD’s board will hold a session open to the public at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the district office to discuss the plans. O’Brien said changes could come if enrollment projections shift in the coming years.
“This is a planning process,” he said. “We will look at the numbers again every year and amend and change our plans to make sure they’re in conformant with the growth we’re actually seeing.”