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At the March 10 Finance Committee meeting, Peter Godard, the District’s chief officer of research, accountability and data, presented the recommendations of the Lincoln Enrollment Committee (LEC) that was formed to review options to address a projected increase in student enrollment at Lincoln Elementary School next year.
The latest projections prepared by Mr. Godard estimate that enrollment will increase from 572 this school year to 626 in the 2015-16 school year.
The average class sizes at Lincoln are already the highest in the District at all grade levels, except second grade. Next year, average class sizes are projected to range from a low of 24 students in kindergarten to a high of 26 in fifth grade.
The LEC is composed of the assistant principal, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and a second grade teacher. It also included a diverse group of 11 Lincoln family members. Mr. Godard said the LEC met three times, and reached consensus that District 65 should consider the following short-term options for managing enrollment:
• Require re-enrollment at all grade levels at Lincoln for the upcoming school year (which would require establishing residency).
• Promote and market magnet and permissive transfer options to families registering for 2015-16, including existing families and new families.
• Incentivize permissive transfers and enrollment in magnet schools through free and reduced-cost transportation.
• Add a lunch period in order to reduce crowding and traffic in hallways.
Members of the LEC were hesitant to support the idea of limiting enrollment and transferring students [above] limit. Most members agreed that their recommendations may not be enough to limit the school’s enrollment to a level where most families would feel comfortable, said Mr. Godard. He added that the LEC “suggested that limiting enrollment and transferring students be used as a last resort,” and if students were transferred it be done using a lottery system.
Members of the LEC discussed other options and expressed concern that the common spaces, including the lunch room, playground, and hallways, are overcrowded.
At the Finance Committee meeting, Mr. Godard also presented a memo that he and assistant superintendents Joyce Bartz, Mary Brown and John Price prepared, taking into account the LEC’s recommendations. The memo laid out seven “draft” recommendations to manage enrollment at Lincoln.
One key recommendation is to limit enrollment at Lincoln to 25 classrooms with an average class size set at the District’s guidelines, which range from 23 students at kindergarten to 27 students at fifth grade. Students in [above] the maximum limit would be transferred to another school using a lottery system. It is anticipated that six students might be affected.
The administrators also recommend that the District reduce enrollment by requiring re-enrollment at all grade levels, by encouraging incoming families to consider magnet and permissive transfer options, and by reopening enrollment in the ESL program at Lincoln to families living in its attendance area, and diverting ESL families living in other attendance areas to Orrington and Walker Schools.
To alleviate overcrowding in the common spaces, the administrators recommend creating a utilization plan for the lunch room and other common spaces.
Mr. Goddard said the plan is to obtain feedback from members of the LEC regarding the administrators’ recommendations and to convene a focus group of family members with incoming kindergarten students to provide feedback.
Finance Committee Chair Richard Rykhus said some members of the Board had expressed concerns several years ago about capping enrollment and transferring students.
Board President Tracy Quattrocki said the cap and transfer policy that the Board voted down several years ago transferred students based on the time they enrolled in school. “We have to find a creative solution where we don’t transfer students based on the time of enrollment,” she said.
Board member Suni Kartha said the proposed lottery may address that. She added that on a long-term basis she thought the Board would need to discuss redrawing attendance areas to manage student enrollment.
At the suggestion of Steve Jones, co-vice president of Lincoln’s PTA, the Finance Committee decided to hold a public forum at Lincoln school before final recommendations are made.