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Publish Date: 9/3/2005

Students at Erie Elementary School eat outside Friday. With enrollment up to 700 students, Monday through Thursday lunch periods are overflowing. Some children eat on tarps on the floor of the gymnasium. On Fridays, the school eats outside, which allows lunch periods to run more smoothly one day a week. Times-Call/Erin McCracken

Youth movement
Influx of elementary students has SVVSD dealing with crowding

LONGMONT — Enrollment growth in the St. Vrain Valley School District is causing a handful of schools to tighten their belts and get creative in how they deal with crowding.

District planners projected in April that enrollment would top out at 22,390 students. So far, the district is between 50 and 100 students above that projection, St. Vrain planning director Scott Toillion said.

A couple of schools have surpassed or are near the district’s 125 percent capacity benchmark that usually signals it is time to build another school to alleviate overcrowding.

Because of financial constraints stemming from St. Vrain’s $13.9 million general fund deficit, which was discovered at the end of 2002, the district can’t build new schools in those areas until the current schools reach between 160 percent and 180 percent of their capacity, school board President Sandi Searls said two weeks ago during a meeting with the town of Erie board of trustees.

Erie Elementary is at 130 percent of its capacity of 552 students. Eagle Crest Elementary is at 123 percent of its capacity of 528 students.

Ryan Ball, principal at Eagle Crest, said he has 685 students, including five kindergarten classes, and that’s stretching the school’s resources to the maximum.

“We grew one more class in size. We added another round of third grade,” he said. “We also changed our specials rotation by adding a computer teacher.”

The school received another portable building this year, bringing its total to four portables, or eight additional classrooms.

Coal Ridge Middle School was projected to have 753 students in a school built to house 750. Currently, its enrollment stands at 791, according to school officials.

Frederick High School is also bursting at the seams. Enrollment is 744 and climbing, principal Jim Sundberg said. The school was projected to have 682 students this year.

“Classrooms are crowded, and we have had an issue finding books,” he said. “We’re concerned about feeding all of our students at lunch, but we’ve added lunch lines and streamlined the process.”

The school already has received 11/2 additional teachers and has three portable buildings, or six additional classrooms, this year, he said.

One thing that saved Frederick High this year is that its eighth-graders moved over to Coal Ridge Middle School at the beginning of the school year. That alleviated what could have been a very crowded situation, said Rex Hartman, St. Vrain’s director of operations and maintenance.

St. Vrain has 51 portable buildings throughout the district, one fewer than last year, Hartman said.

Heritage Middle School was projected to have 517 students this year, but the school has more than 600, and that number climbs every day, principal Mark Spencer said.

The school just hired three new teachers to help with the overcrowding. Spencer said many of the school’s classes topped out at 40 students the first week of school.

Tom Garcia, St. Vrain’s assistant superintendent for human resources, said his department monitors enrollment throughout the district on a daily basis.

The next enrollment count will be the Friday after Labor Day. The official student count takes place Oct. 1, which is how the state decides how much money should be doled out to every school district.

“We continue to monitor those (schools that are overcrowded) and make adjustments,” Garcia said.

Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-684-5211 or pavengladych@times-call.com.

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