The Eastern Carver County School District (District 112) has put its E-8 and high school facility task forces on hold until fall, as the two groups wait for a refresh on demographic projections for the next decade. A faster than expected recovery in residential construction as well as the Legislature’s recent approval of all-day kindergarten for all students may spark discussions of new facilities earlier than anticipated.
While specific decisions on boundaries and possible new school construction will now wait until 2014, the issues the task forces were wrestling with remain. On the elementary school level, a permanent home needs to be found for La Academia (the District’s rapidly growing Spanish immersion program) and the Family Learning Center, overcrowding in the three western schools (Victoria, Clover Ridge, and East Union) has to be addressed, and a likely shortage in kindergarten rooms resulting from the Legislature’s approval of all-day kindergarten must be resolved. At this level, the issues boil down to a numbers game — finding a way to make sure that there is sufficient building capacity to meet enrollment and then drawing boundaries in a way that make the most sense for the District as a whole.
On the high school level, the issue is more difficult and more philosophical. There’s enough capacity in both high schools to last the District for the next decade. Chanhassen High School has (and is projected to continue to have) higher enrollment than Chaska High School by 200-300 students and Chaska High’s population is significantly more diverse (on a percentage basis, there are nearly three times as many non-white students and students receiving free or reduced lunches compared to Chanhassen High).
Although the Chanhassen facility is newer, the two schools now essentially provide the same amenities, with the exception of a “black box” theater, after the District has invested nearly $3 million in renovations to Chaska High since 2011.
The feeder system for the two high schools is based strictly on city lines — something that was strongly promoted by city leaders in both Chanhassen and Chaska and is easy to explain and understand. Could this change? Well, it’s possible. The unbalanced enrollment and demographics between the two high schools is an issue which some feel should be addressed. Does drawing boundary lines based on city limits do the best service to all of the children served by the District?
How could things change? Well, some have suggested moving away from city boundaries for the high schools and moving to an elementary-school based feeder program (3 or 4 elementary schools could be designated to feed into each high school). Other thoughts on balancing include using different geographical boundaries to split the District among the two high schools. But there’s also plenty of folks who would favor keeping things just as they are today.
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