Enrollment capped for 3 schools

Nov. 14, 2013 @ 05:00 PM

The Union County Board of Education voted 7-2 Tuesday night to implement caps on Kensington Elementary School, Marvin Ridge Middle School and Porter Ridge Middle School. 

Members Marce Savage and Sherry Hodges opposed the measure. 

Mike Webb, deputy superintendent of instructional technology and operations, said the facilities committee looked at the seating capacity and the core capacity. Core capacity is the total enrollment that a school can handle in its core areas, like the cafeteria, media room and the ability of buses to transport students. 

Webb said they spoke with the fire marshal and other groups about the space issues in these three schools. 

Kensington Elementary has around 1,000 students and Porter Ridge and Marvin Ride Middle Schools have about 1,400. Webb recommended the schools be capped and remain capped until Kensington Elementary shrinks to 900 students and the middle schools shrink to about 1,300. 

Webb could not offer a timeline as to when the population numbers could come down. 

New students at Kensington Elementary will go to Waxhaw Elementary, new students at Marvin Ridge Middle School will go to Parkwood Middle School and new students at Porter Ridge Middle School will go to Piedmont Middle School. 

Webb said they cannot move the students to Weddington or Cuthbertson middle schools without creating a “domino effect” in the schools. 

There are numerous guidelines and procedures in place for capping schools and staff will work to make them available online and to parents. Porter Ridge Middle School was capped for attendance in 2009, as well. This is the first time Marvin Ridge Middle School and Kensington Elementary School have been capped. 

Superintendent Mary Ellis said when the numbers come down, at the end of the year students will be able to come back in order, by enrollment date. 

The school system will be in charge of transportation with regard to getting the students to their new schools. Webb said they will be using buses they already own and as long as their efficiency rating does not drop below 93 percent, they will receive funding from the state for the additional costs. 

Board member Christina Helms asked if a child could stay at their new school if they liked it after the cap was lifted. Webb said the transportation stops after the cap is lifted. 

Board member Kevin Stewart said he had received questions about the “sibling rule.” Webb said that the cap will only impact people who are new to the area. 

Hodges, who opposed the measure, said the assignment would be particularly hard for parents in the Marvin Ridge area who want to be involved, since Parkwood is not convenient.

“We’re so creative with rearranging the dishes,” Hodges said. She asked if they could build additions or something to alleviate the crowding without reassigning students. 

She said permitting in the western part of the county is “out of control” with no relief in sight, adding that the growth in Union County will not stop and they cannot close the borders.

She added that the growth issue and being able to fund the schools is beyond the school board, but wondered if there were other options.

“I hate that we have come to this,” Hodges said. 

Ellis said they could add additions, but that would involve capital funding from the county. Webb added that it would take funding and also time to design and build the additions. 

“There is no dish rearranging,” Ellis said. She said if there were, staff would not be requesting a cap. 

The three schools are capped as of Wednesday, Nov. 13. 

Webb explained in an interview that families who already lived in the clusters would not be impacted, unless they were families who lived in the clusters but whose children were not attending the public schools, because they were being homeschooled or attending school elsewhere. If those families decided to enroll their children in public school next semester, they would have to attend one of the three spill-over schools. 

The cap will primarily impact families who move to the area after Wednesday. When a student is enrolling, Webb said, the family will provide proof-of-residency and they will make sure the date on the home is before the cap was implemented.