Demographer will begin enrollment examination

By GREG KENNELTY
Staff Writer

The Howell K-8 School District Board of Education Facilities Committee has met with its demographer to begin discussing a plan that is expected to result in the redrawing of school attendance areas.

Wayne Verderber of Applied Data Services worked with the school district in 2013 when a redistricting plan was being considered for the 2014-15 school year.

Board members eventually decided not to proceed with redistricting for 2014-15. A redistricting plan is now being considered for the 2015-16 school year.

“We already have a good base of data from Wayne’s work last year,” Business Administrator Ron Sanasac said. “We just need to update the information now, especially with the graduating classes of kindergarten, fifth and eighth grade [from 2013-14 and 2014- 15]. That update will give us a good base and then we can go from there.”

Howell ended the 2012-13 school year with 6,428 students enrolled (4,079 pupils in grades K- 5, 2,320 pupils in grades 6-8 and 29 out-of-district students). The enrollment as of Jan. 31, 2014, stood at 6,344 students enrolled (4,057 pupils in grades K-5, 2,255 pupils in grades 6-8 and 32 out-of-district students), according to information provided by district administrators.

At the April 28 meeting of the Facilities Committee, Verderber said he would like to examine how a redistricting plan might work using current enrollment numbers. He said officials would wait for enrollment numbers from October 2014 before making a final decision.

“I just want to have a scenario made up to draw some conclusions, or what we can from it, before the final enrollment numbers come in. Then we can tweak them as needed and come up with an actual plan,” he said.

Verderber said information regarding the number of rooms available in each school has not changed since 2013, and those figures will be used in projections for class sizes during the redistricting process.

In commenting on attendance areas for schools, Verderber said he would like to respect physical boundaries such as highways, and he would not like to see a neighborhood divided among multiple schools, although the committee has not made those limitations criteria for redistricting.

“The idea here is to assign students to schools in a way where the whole district absorbs the impact of the district [and not just one area],” Verderber said. “We want balanced enrollment.”

Sanasac defined balanced enrollment as a ratio of students in each building proportionate to the number of rooms available in the building.

The members of the Facilities Committee hope to have a redistricting recommendation for September 2015 to the full board by December.

The committee has previously indicated it would like to optimize use and balance enrollment of schools where possible; provide free space equitably to each school, in addition to identifying special purpose spaces such as computer rooms, and rooms for art and music; minimize disruption of special education programs and maintain sending patterns where possible; have a middle-school “feeder structure” that will provide for complete elementary attendance areas; maximize the plan’s durability for five years, or eliminate student reassignments for at least five years, to the extent possible; and minimize transportation costs.

At the April 28 meeting of the Education Committee, Chairman Mark Bonjavanni addressed the issue of class size for the process of redistricting.

The potential redistricting depends largely on the issue of class size. The current proposal for class size is to reduce Howell’s kindergarten, first grade and second grade classes to a maximum of 15 students.

“[We were] asked to put that recommendation to the board on hold until all the other committees have looked at the idea,” Bonjavanni said. “This committee has heard enough reports and research to know where we stand on the issue and we would like to still move forward with this plan, but make it a goal for this committee, just to make it a more formal prospect.”

Bonjavanni said he plans to bring the topic up at the board’s next meeting.

Contact Greg Kennelty at gkennelty@gmnews.com.