Year-round sessions loom if bond fails, board told

Students in District 51 could attend year-round school sessions in two years if a bond package fails to pass in November.

The district presented the recommendation to the board during a Tuesday night work session, and Superintendent Tim Mills said the board must decide a “back-up plan” quickly after the November vote if the bond does not pass. Melissa Callahan deVita, director of support services for the district, said growth in student population has exceeded all projections to the point where less than 1 percent of the total classroom seats are unoccupied this year.

“It’s all over the valley at this point,” she said. “Growth is not as pocketed as we projected before.”

Shannon Bingham, the district’s demographer, said the area will continue to experience an influx of energy jobs, which would inflate student population even in a slow housing market. The financial turmoil nationally in recent weeks has fueled a “bipartisan endorsement of domestic energy production,” Bignham said.

Because of the area’s supply of existing housing, Bingham said, “We’re positioned pretty perfectly to house the professionals that would be running those operations.”

Callahan deVita and Bingham projected two different yearly enrollment figures for the 2013-14 school year. One, based on 2 percent annual growth, put district enrollment at 24,537. The other, based on historic trends, projected enrollment at 26,572.

The 2008-09 enrollment is just more than 22,000 students.

Either way, Callahan deVita said, the district could accommodate the projected enrollments with year-round sessions. In that case, three-fourths of students at any given time would rotate having a quarter of the year off.

This is not a scare tactic, Mills said, “But we have an obligation to provide facility space for every student.”

If the bond fails, the board would have to decide what alternative plan to pursue before December so that district officials can plan for the 2009-2010 scholl year.

“For all of us, it is our sincere hope and wish that this is a decision we won’t have to make,” Board President Leslie Kiesler said.


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