Solving overcrowding without a bond

What if we turned a middle school into an elementary school?

After the failure of February’s construction bond, the School Board passed Resolution 13. This gave administrators the go-ahead to begin planning solutions for the district’s overcrowding issues, which are especially bad — and only getting worse — at the elementary and high school levels.

The easiest and least complicated way to ease the burden of overcrowding without significantly disrupting students and staff is to pass a new school construction bond. However, if voters once again vote fail to pass a bond this November, the district will be forced to come up with more creative ways to house our ever-growing student population.

One item specifically listed in Resolution 13 is to transform one of our middle schools into an elementary school. This would help ease the overcrowding at our elementary levels, while taking advantage of this particular point in time where our middle schools aren’t as overcrowded as our elementary and high schools.

are literally just shuffling kids around,” said David Hammond, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Schools. “But these kids won’t be elementary students forever. Before long, they’ll be going to middle school, and then where will we be?”

The building requirements of a middle school and elementary school are significantly different. Most teaching in elementary schools happens in one classroom with one teacher. Middle Schools are built for students to follow schedules and move from one part of the building to another. They also require room for lockers, science labs, choir, band, and orchestra, as well as other programs.

Of course, changing one middle school to an elementary school will reduce the number of middle schools in the district from six to five. Middle school students will begin to feel the overcrowding immediately, and as those elementary students get older, the middle schools will get more crowded, meaning, we may need to switch the school back to a middle school at some point in the future.

“There’s just no way to tell at this point,” said Hammond, “but without a new bond, we are being forced to look at solutions that will only help us in the short term. The long game can only be played if a new bond is passed.”

istrict officials are also looking at potentially making changes to Elk Plain School of Choice.

Elk Plain School of Choice has only been a K-8 school since 2016. Along with our Dual Language program and Cambridge program, the K-8 model was adopted as a way to increase student choice in the district.

But due to our three recent bond failures, one of the options now on the table to help ease the district’s overcrowding problem is to change Elk Plain K-8 back to a K-5.

This would move the middle-school-aged students currently at Elk Plain back into the middle schools that have a little room left, which would open up room at Elk Plain for more elementary students. This would help ease the pressure on some of our elementary schools that are extremely overcrowded.

Elk Plain at a glance

rior to becoming the only K-8 school in the district, Elk Plain School of Choice had several iterations dating back to the late 1800s.The first Elk Plain School opened in 1892 as a simple one-room building serving the small Elk Plain farming community. The school continued to expand as the community grew and in 1937 the school was moved to its current location. In 1992 the school was remodeled and renamed “Elk Plain School of Choice.” In 2014 the school began its transition to a K-8 school, adding one grade level per year until full implementation in 2016.

Helping kids learn is the driving force behind all we do in the Bethel School District.

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