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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Full house on horizon

Central Valley District planning for future

Evergreen Middle School principal John Parker works his way into the center of the hallway to direct traffic as students crowd the intersection at the end of classes Thursday in Spokane Valley. (Dan Pelle)

The Central Valley School District is looking to the future and thinking about how to house more students.

A new study predicts an enrollment of 16,908 to 19,141 in 25 years. This year’s enrollment is 12,305 full-time equivalent students.

Superintendent Ben Small told the school board during Monday’s meeting that the last time the district conducted an enrollment study was in 2009, right on the heels of a recession. The new study was conducted by Randy Young of Henderson, Young & Co.

The superintendent cautioned the board that these numbers are predictions, not set in stone, but he wants the district to be prepared.

“He’s like the weatherman,” Small said.

Small said in the next five years, a smaller window of time that is easier to predict, enrollment is expected to jump by 510 elementary students, 176 middle school students, and 216 high school students.

The study said during the 2019-’20 school year, there could be 4,200 high school students. Small said with a standard of 1,400 students per high school, the district will need a third building.

Small said that even if a third high school dropped the number of students to 1,200-1,300 per school, he didn’t think that was too small. It would leave more room for labs and for students who want to choice within the district, something many schools don’t allow now due to space.

The board also discussed the impact full-day kindergarten and class-size reduction in grades K-3 will have on elementary schools.

Small said these programs are expected to be fully funded across the district in coming years – meaning elementary schools could need to accommodate 624 students.

Board member MJ Bolt asked what the research showed about student performance in bigger schools.

Tim Nootenboom, executive director of elementary teaching and learning, said the research shows that class size matters, not the size of the school.

The board unanimously approved Small’s recommendation that full-day kindergarten and class-size reduction be the standard of the district, and phased in as funding becomes available. The board also unanimously approved his request to direct the district’s capital facilities committee to plan for these capacities in its 25-year plan. Small expects voters won’t be asked to approve a construction bond until February 2015.