The continued growth in Coeur d’Alene area elementary schools has school officials engaged in its biennial dance of shuffling students.
Inevitably, the district will step on the toes of a few parents and children. The trick is to step on as few as possible.
The schools in the northern end of the district - Ramsey, Hayden Lake, Hayden Meadows and Dalton Gardens - are the ones that will require the most finessing.
“There is a tremendous amount of growth in this area,” said Kathleen Kuntz, principal of Hayden Lake Elementary. “We’re pretty much at capacity for what the building can hold.”
The district tentatively plans to move portable classrooms from Coeur d’Alene High School to Hayden Lake, Dalton Gardens and Winton elementary schools, and move some students from Ramsey and Hayden Meadows to those schools.
“With portables we can take another 100 students before we really feel the crunch,” Kuntz said.
Ramsey, with 616 students, already has portable classrooms. The school was designed to handle 540 students at most.
Hayden Meadows opened three years ago with 500 students. On Monday, the school had 638 students.
“We’ve grown an average of 40 students per year,” said principal Warren Bakes. “As long as we’re in the area of 600 students, we’re OK. As you increase the number over designed capacity, you start to feel the pinch in the lunchroom, bathrooms and drinking fountains.”
Schools have to start hiring aides when classroom sizes swell over the state recommended numbers. Hayden Meadows has aides in every grade level except fifth, Bakes said.
Though the schools in the southern end of the district still have room for growth, few parents from Hayden are likely to offer to have their children bused to Dalton Gardens, three miles from Hayden.
“The first three years of school, those are the most important years of a child’s education,” said Jan Feely, who has a child in Hayden Meadows. “Having a neighborhood school where they’re growing up is very important.”
Peggy Burkholder agreed. She has twin fourth-grade boys at the same school.
“It always boils down to, ‘Yeah, there are too many kids in the school, but we don’t want to move our kids,”’ she said.
The district administration discussed the enrollment situation with the school board Tuesday evening, but no final decisions were made.
“Already rumors are flying from parents thinking that their neighborhood is being targeted,” said Hazel Bauman, elementary education coordinator. She urged the board to make decisions based on what is in the best interest of children who “deserve an educational environment that is not overcrowded.”
“You can almost predict there will be worried parents,” said Ramsey Elementary parent Sue Thilo. “But it’s premature to get worried before we know what all the options are.”