At the Sept. 29 board of education meeting, Island Trees Superintendent Richard Segerdahl took time to speak about the successful opening of the schools and the enrollment changes at each of the district's buildings.
Segerdahl began by stating, "We had a very smooth opening in all of the buildings. The buildings were all in good shape and I want to thank the custodians and Mr. Faltermayer [Plant and Facilities] and all his people for their work in getting the buildings ready." He also announced that, aside from a few glitches, through the efforts of Deputy Superintendent Peter Egan transportation in the first weeks of school also went well.
Most of the building projects in the district have been completed, with only the new science room at the high school waiting to be finished. Segerdahl explained that they are just waiting for some cabinetry to be delivered for the lab. The district expects to have that room completed by early November.
Enrollment was the next issue that Segerdahl spoke about. He noted that the total elementary enrollment is currently at 1,083. According to the superintendent there are 202 students in grade 1, 212 in grade 2, 220 in grade three and grade four has 251 students. According to Segerdahl, both he and Dr. Egan were pleased to see that the variance between grades 1 and 3 was only about 20 children. He pointed out, however that grade 4 has over 250 students, which is an anomaly for the district.
The middle school currently has a population of 842 students with 224 in grade 5, 214 in both grades 6 and 7, and 189 students in grade 8. Segerdahl pointed out that while this year the middle school has less than 850 students, next year when the 189 move up to the high school, the middle school will be faced with a class with 251 students moving to the middle school, thus bringing the population of the middle school up to over 900. This is not a problem for the district currently because they have been watching the numbers for the last several years and have prepared the school for the influx of students without adding any space onto the building.
It is now the high school that the district has to consider preparing, the way they began preparing the middle school three years ago. The current enrollment at the high school is 653, with all of the grade levels under 175 students. "But soon we will be receiving another 250 students as the middle school numbers start to move up to the high school," noted Segerdahl. The challenge, according to Segerdahl, is to accommodate the additional students at the high school while trying to keep the taxes down and offering all the courseS and the nine period day that are currently offered.
Segerdahl hopes to be able to offer the board and residents a recommendation at the Oct. 27 school board meeting about what should take place at the high school to prepare it for the more than 900 students who will be enrolled at the school eventually.
The total enrollment in the district is currently at 2,578 students, which is 43 more students than were enrolled last year. In the past three years the district has seen a large increase in total enrollment, which is now tapering down. From the 1996-97 school year to 97-98 the district saw an increase of 80 students and from 97-98 to 98-99 Island Trees gained 56 students, bringing the total enrollment increase over the last three years to 179 students.
While the district plans for the secondary schools, Segerdahl noted that currently the size of the elementary population has been going back down and the schools have been able to keep individual classroom size to 20-21 students.
As the current elementary students then move on to the middle school, the middle school numbers will go back down into the 800s, thus allowing the district to work with the 900 students in the high school.
"It is very important we plan for this but it's also important that we don't panic with these numbers and go and try to pass bond issues and add onto the buildings and then find out six years from now that we don't really need all this room and we're paying for it for the next 15 years," concluded Segerdahl.