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School district faces enrollment dilemma

Emery County Progress publisher

Students occupy all seats in a computer lab at Creekview Elementary, demonstrating how full the building is of youth and faculty. The school converted a music room to a second computer lab a short time ago. Two elementary schools in the Price area are currently overcrowded.

After closing four schools and constructing one building in the last 20 years, Carbon dstrict is facing a problem the board of education did not expect -growth.

For two decades, the enrollment in schools in the county has been dropping. And with facilities growing older and less used, the district has been shutting down buildings.

First to go was the Reeves School, then Durrant Elementary. Then the district closed the middle school in Price and finally East Carbon High.

Last year, the district built the Bruin Point Elementary School to replace Petersen, which has now been awarded to Sunnyside city for use as a community center.

The district has had an open enrollment policy; one where parents could transport children to any school. With Price being where many parents work, Castle Heights and Creekview Elementary have gained students continually from other schools around the county.

But according to Patsy Bueno, the district's superintendent, the policy has been halted because the Price elementary schools are bulging at the seams.

"Neither of these schools will have any more room for new students next school year," Bueno told the Carbon County Board of Education during the panel's regular meeting on Jan. 9. "Our options on what we can do are running out and some decisions will have to be made."

The growth in the two school buildings has been impacted by the influx of students being enrolled from the Helper and Wellington area and the fact that the district's enrollment has begun to grow again, after years of being in the doldrums.

In the 2006-07 school year the student enrollment in the district grew by 100 and according to district officials it has taken that same jump again this year.

Bueno presented four options to the board about what can be done to alleviate the problem. First the schools could use split classes (mixed grades) combining one grade that has fewer kids in a room with a grade that has more kids.

Second the district could accept the fact that the schools in question will just have to have large classes (in some cases over 30 kids per room).

A third option is to lease some portable classrooms which would run in the vicinity of $30,000 for the first year and a little over half of that for each year thereafter the units remain on the school grounds.

Finally the district could redefine the boundaries of the Price schools, possibly sending students to Wellington Elementary and Sally Mauro in Helper.

Wellington and Sally Mauro have idle classrooms and the two schools are not operating at capacity.

Presently, Castle Heights Elementary has 428 students from within the school's boundaries in its building.

Castle Heights also houses 84 students from outside the area.

Wellington contributes the most at 36 students. In total, Castle Heights has 512 students.

Creekview Elementary has 52 students from Wellington along with some from other areas.

Creekview has 374 students from within the school's boundaries.

Creekview has a total of 473 students.

As the board discussed the issue, the members brought up the fact that if all Wellington students went to the school within designated boundaries, much of the problem would be solved.

Wellington Elementary would have the room to accommodate them.

But the superintendent said that, once students are placed in a school through the open enrollment policy, it becomes their school.

"They would be grandfathered in no matter what we do," said the superintendent. "Those who attend either Creekview or Castle Heights consider those two schools to be their schools."

The board of education said the members would begin to look at the options presented.

The members indicated that they would also entertain any new solutions they could find to the situation at a future board meeting.

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