Due to our supportive communities and outstanding educational programs, the communities of Dallas Center and Grimes are drawing families to our area at an increasingly higher rate. This growth has allowed the school district to offer additional opportunities for students at all levels. For example, we are able to maintain smaller class sizes in the elementary; we added several STEM courses at the middle levels, and the high school offers more Advanced Placement (AP) courses than ever before. In fact, just this year, our district was awarded the College Board Honor Roll for significant gains in access and success in AP Courses.
While this type of growth is exciting, it challenges us to plan carefully for future structures and grade configurations that best serve our students. As you are aware, we are building a new elementary in the Heritage Development that is scheduled to open in the 2017-18 school year. Next year, however, we have immediate needs for classroom space at Dallas Center Elementary. The building is currently at capacity and will require additional classroom space if we remain with the current K-5 structure.
Additionally, South Prairie will be over capacity next year by 4 classrooms. Given this challenge and our decision to move to neighborhood schools, we realize it is time to begin the process of altering grade configurations and establishing neighborhood boundary lines.
In the short term, we will remedy the space problem by shifting four sections of second grade to North Ridge. We will use natural boundaries, for example James Street and 44, to determine which 2nd graders attend North Ridge and who will attend South Prairie. As we move to K-4 neighborhood schools in 2017-18 when the new elementary opens, the natural boundaries will continue to be our guideline in determining attendance centers for elementary students.
While these plans address our immediate needs, we understand that growth in the elementary eventually leads to needs in our secondary facilities. For example, we currently have the capacity for 220 fifth grade students in Dallas Center Elementary and next year’s class is 232. Additionally, our current 6-7 middle school capacity is 550 students. Once the class sizes exceed 275 per grade (which is projected to be in 2021-22), the middle school will need an addition in order to handle 750+ students. You can see how this then progresses to our current Meadows/HS scenario. This complex has a capacity for 1,200 students, which given the current grade configuration will hit capacity in 2020-21. These facility needs can be addressed through temporary classroom structures, additions, or a new facility. I will be presenting all possible scenarios, timelines, budgets and a recommendation to community groups, the facility committee, the school board throughout the spring.
While this enrollment growth presents a challenge-- it is not a new topic to the board, our staff, our communities or me. We consider this to be a top priority as we work together to determine the best fiscally-responsible growth scenarios for the students of Dallas Center-Grimes. I welcome any input or thoughts that will help us address these challenges.