Stillwater Public Schools is looking ahead to a 2023 school bond election and reconfiguring where some grade levels are located plays a part in that.
Superintendent Marc Moore told the Board of Education on Tuesday that the district’s Long Range Facilities Planning Committee will begin meeting this summer to determine what should be included in the upcoming bond issue.
That gives the Board this summer to make decisions about making adjustments to the grade configuration plan adopted in 2014.
The plan was intended to take effect in the 2015-2016 school year but was delayed until school facilities could accommodate the changes.
That goal was the basis for choosing which projects to include in the $74 million 2017 bond issue, including the district’s decision to construct a new building for Westwood Elementary instead of another elementary school to the district.
Moore told the News Press the district will continue building elementary schools on a 600 student model.
“There have been no discussions about changing that,” he said.
The redistricting SPS announced in 2019 balanced current elementary enrollment well enough that, regardless of the configuration plan, another redistricting shouldn't be needed in the next few years, Moore said.
But some type of reconfiguration will be needed to accommodate projected enrollment growth.
Options included building a districtwide Pre-K/Kindergarten center, which was rejected by the previous Long Range Facilities Planning Committee.
The committee settled on a plan to free up space by moving ninth-graders from the junior high to the high school, combining seventh and eighth grade students at the junior high and fifth and sixth grade students at the middle school. Elementary schools would house Pre-K through fourth grade.
The 2017 bond covered four major construction projects, including renovation and expansion of Stillwater Middle School and Stillwater Junior High to accommodate increased enrollment by adding classrooms and common areas.
The committee developed a five year and 10 year plan for facilities.
Improvements to Stillwater High School were part of the second half of that plan, Moore said. The high school will be a focus of the next bond issue due to its condition. The plan is focused on meeting current site needs and increasing capacity to accommodate additional enrollment, potentially including ninth grade students.
That decision hasn’t been made yet, Moore said.
Projections prepared by a demographics consulting firm show 1-2% annual growth for SPS through the 2027-2028 school year.
New housing developments in and on the edges of Stillwater are expected to bring more students to the district, Board member Melody Wright said.
The district lost about 500 of its estimated 6,000 students last year to transfers. Some moved to online or private schools and some went to nearby districts that maintained in-person instruction.
Moore said some of that enrollment has already come back but the district remains lower than it was pre-pandemic.
He believes some parents are waiting until closer to the start of school to see what happens.
The Board needs to have a decision about how to proceed by the end of the summer so planning for the next bond issue can begin, Moore said. The ninth grade doesn’t necessarily have to be included but, for example, if there are plans for a new high school, they need to know how big the cafeteria should be, how big the band rooms should be.
Those types of things can form the basis for both the short term and the long term plan, he said. It doesn’t have to be rushed, any move could be multiple years in the future but the decision is necessary for planning,