A decrease in Springfield City School District’s kindergarten through sixth grade enrollment has alleviated overcrowding concerns in the district, school leaders said.
District leaders explored a number of possible solutions to overcome overcrowding in their elementary schools last school year but decided to not make any changes. Some school board members expressed concern about the issue but Springfield Superintendent Bob Hill said it now might have taken care of itself.
“At this point, our K-6 enrollment has declined by 67 students since last year,” he said.
That drop follows a drop of about 50 students the year earlier, according to data provided by the school district. Right now, about 4,300 kindergarten through sixth grade students are enrolled in the district. In the 2015-2016 school year, the district had more than 4,420 students enrolled in those grades.
“We continue to see declining enrollment as the population of Springfield and Clark County declines,” he said.
Only Snowhill Elementary is over capacity. It has 508 students and its capacity is 500.
The other schools nearing capacity are Kenwood and Lincoln elementaries, Hill said. Kenwood has 456 students with a capacity of 498 and Lincoln has 420 students with the capacity of 453.
Snyder Park has plenty of room, according to the stats by the district. However fifth grade parents at Snyder Park had concerns at the beginning of the school year about only having two teachers for that grade, parent Ashley Bustamante said.
The school hired a third fifth grade teacher about two weeks ago, Hill said, and said the situation was temporary as enrollment was adjusted.
“I’m glad that they did that. I think a lot of the kids were struggling and I know my son’s teachers seemed very overwhelmed,” Bustamante said.
Her son has told her that Snyder Park doesn’t have a lot of space that’s unused.
“My son has said that they had to use the music room to make it into a classroom and he had expressed there is no room in the school,” she said.
Springfield Teacher Union President Jim Townsend, also a music teacher at Kenwood, said he doesn’t have a classroom and he would like to see the district address that in all of its schools.
“It limits what I am able to do as a music teacher,” he said.
The classroom the new fifth-grade Snyder Park teacher was assigned had been a music teacher room. The music teacher there now goes class-to-class with a cart, Townsend said.
Not having enough space for art and music teacher classrooms is a difficult challenge, Hill said, but teachers work hard to make the arrangements work.
“It is our current reality,” he said. “We still have many art and music rooms available and the reality is that our high-quality teachers will successfully teach art and music in the available spaces. We have rock star educators who truly support our students on a daily basis.”
Class sizes at Springfield elementary schools for kindergarten through third grade are around 20 students each and class sizes for fourth through sixth grades are 25 students each. The class sizes are smaller than what’s set in teacher contracts, Hill said.
“Because of this choice to keep class size smaller than many other public schools and smaller than our contract requires, our elementary buildings utilize all available classroom space, which may lead to a perception that our buildings are overcrowded,” Hill said.
Despite signs pointing that the district should be OK for the near future, the superintendent said school leaders have a constant conversation about possible overcrowding.
“We are pleased that we are currently able to offer small class sizes, which from a research perspective may have benefits to our students and our teachers,” he said. “At the current time, we do not need to make any changes to the use of our facilities, but we will review data again in the spring and of course, next fall, if enrollment changes substantially.”
By the numbers
7,700: Approximate students enrolled in Springfield City School District
4,306: Kindergarten through sixth grade enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year
20: Target class size for kindergarten through third grades
25: Target class size for fourth through sixth grades
The Springfield News-Sun digs into how well students are being educated in your local schools, including stories on state report cards and how safe schools in Clark and Champaign counties are.