It’s getting crowded

By Chuck Kajer

It’s getting crowded.

That was the simple message New Prague High School principal Tom Doig had at Monday’s school board meeting. Since it opened seven years ago, enrollment at the school has increased steadily. The building was designed to house 1,050 students, and it topped that number this past school year. Doig said 1,107 students are registered as of Monday for the 2005-06 school year. While that figure includes some who registered last spring but have since decided to attend elsewhere, it also does not include about a dozen registration packets that have been mailed out, nor does it include students who have moved to the area and have not yet registered. Historically, August is the busiest time for new registrations.

The bottom line is that our students will be attending a school that is too small for them. That will mean crowded hallways, larger class sizes, and in some cases, limited selection of classes for some students.

In discussing what to do, the most obvious solution board members are considering is asking voters to approve a high school expansion. The building was designed to easily accommodate a 500-student addition, and the building’s engineers believe one could be ready by the fall of 2007 if it gets the go-ahead this fall.

But board members are also concerned as to what will happen if voters, like they did last year, turn down a high school addition. The fall of 2007 is a critical time for the school, because another big freshman class will come in, pushing enrollment well beyond 1,200 students.

Board members have about a month to decide whether to put a question on the ballot and what they should ask for. During that time, they need to look over all the figures and determine what the best solution is for the school crowding problem.

Just as important, if they decide to ask for an addition to the high school, they need to develop a convincing argument to sell the idea of building that new addition. They need to convince voters that their proposal is the right one for the future of the district, while at the same time letting them know what alternatives the district faces if nothing is built by the fall of 2007.

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