Tight space may cause future class restructuring at BP Schools
Cramped quarters at Blooming Prairie Elementary School have forced officials to offer art classes this year in a sectioned off area right next to where kids eat their lunches in the cafeteria.
It’s just one way the elementary school is dealing with space issues. And for school officials it’s a good problem that could eventually lead to a restructuring of classes within the district.
“Our elementary school is busting,” said Rodney Krell, chairman of the school board. “Enrollment is rising.”
Enrollment at the elementary school shows 460 students in grades K-6 and 90 in pre-K classes offered for 3 and 4 year olds, according to Chris Staloch, school principal. The strong numbers have forced officials to offer three sections in every class this year with an average of 20 students in each classroom, he said.
Staloch said when he took over as principal in 2010 there were 380 students in K-6. “It may not seem like a whole lot in bigger schools, but 40 (additional) kids is a pretty big deal for us,” he said, noting the pre-K enrollment in 2010 was at 30 students.
In comparison, some of the upcoming graduating classes at the high school have as low as 40 students. “We’re looking very consistent with 60 students in every class,” Staloch said. He added the number 60 is a “good place” to be for the school.
Krell said the surge in enrollment poses a double-edged sword for the district. On one hand, the increase in more students helps financially stabilize the district, but it also creates a problem in finding adequate space for everyone.
As the district monitors the situation closely, a realignment of classes may be needed in the future to alleviate the space problem. Krell said one idea that the district will likely consider is a middle school concept, which would move one grade level or possibly another out of the elementary and into the high school building. The high school currently houses grades 7-12.
Krell couldn’t offer an exact time line of when a change may be made, but he’s certain it would be “within the next 10 years.”
The elementary school was built in the 1960s and remodeled in 1994, Staloch said. “We’re getting close to what it’s built to hold,” he said. “We’re slowly using up all the space for students and classrooms.”
Staloch said the challenge for his building is to utilize the space as effectively as possible. Art classes, for example, used to be held in a classroom, but now take up a portion of the cafeteria. “We don’t have a lot of space that has down time,” he noted.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Staloch said. “Every small school in America would like to have this problem.”
The district has benefited from a strong economy throughout the region as well as good jobs at local businesses, Staloch said. He has also noticed families moving into the area, and Blooming Prairie has experienced some open enrollment from Austin.
“Years ago kids were open enrolling out of the district,” Staloch said. “Now they’re coming back. Blooming Prairie has been a good place to be and draws.”
As officials continue to deal with strong enrollment, Staloch said one thing will not change with the district keeping students’ best interests in mind. “We want to keep smaller class sizes,” he said.
Voters within the district, Staloch noted, helped keep class sizes low by passing an operating referendum last fall. “Our community is saying they appreciate what we’re trying to do,” he said.
There are 21 teachers in addition to 19 other support staff at the elementary school.