Enrollment up on Westside since reconfig

       Rebutting the gloom-and-doom predictions of some citizens before Dis-trict 11's “reconfiguration” in 2009, a district report nearly two years later shows an upswing in Westside elementary enrollment.

The "damsels" lead a song during Howbert Elementary's grades 3-5 performance of "Joust," a musical by national children's writers John Jacobson and Roger Emerson, April 26 in the Coronado High auditorium. Howbert music director Katherine Kennedy directed the show, which had more than 130 students in all.
Westside Pioneer photo

       A big plus, according to D-11 coordinator of enrollment Janet Vaupel, was the establishment last August of the Academy for Advanced & Creative Learning (AACL) at the site of the former Pike Elementary. The non-boundary, K-8 charter school for gifted students had 131 students in grades K-5 this march, with nearly half of those coming from out of the district and only 15 from other Westside schools.
       “In summary, the reconfiguration of the Westside elementary schools and addition of AACL charter school on the Westside has positively impacted the enrollment and permit trends for District 11,” Vaupel's report states. “Enrollment has increased by 38 students, or 2.5 percent, in these schools, and a higher number of out-of-district students are enrolled. District-wide elementary enrollment increased 2.0 percent during the same period.”
       The report was prompted by a Westside Pioneer question to D-11 Assistant Superintendent Mike Poore as to any impacts or trends D-11 has seen since the Board of Education voted for the reconfiguration plan, which closed Pike, Washington and Whittier elementaries, moved Buena Vista to the former Washington building and created West Elementary inside West Middle School after the 2008-09 school year. Ripple effects touched the remaining Westside elementaries, with boundary changes increasing attendance areas for Bristol, Howbert, Jackson and Midland.
       “There was a worry that the Westside would fold,” commented Jeanice Swift, D-11's executive director for K-12 schools, when interviewed about Vaupel's report. “It hasn't. It's come back, more vibrant than before.”
       In addition to AACL, she pointed to Buena Vista Elementary, which now offers Montessori through all its grades; Trailblazer Elementary in the nearby Mountain Shadows area, which has started offering an optional sixth grade (in cooperation with Holmes Middle School); West, Howbert and Jackson, each of which is benefitting from a technology grant; and Bristol, which continues to make strides as an art-oriented school.

A District 11 analysis shows where students come from who attend the Academy for Advanced & Creative Learning (AACL), which has no assigned attendance area.
Courtesy of School District 11

       The goal of closing schools was to make the schools that we have even better,” Swift said. “I think the district is succeeding in that, despite continued budget reductions.”
       Not in-cluded in the enrollment statistics are pre-kindergaren students. Most schools have one pre-K class, but Buena Vista's Montessori - based on the format of a learning style that starts students at a younger age - has three pre-K classes (numbering close to 50 children in all) and plans to add a fourth next year, Swift said.
       District officials are also pleased that the post-reconfiguration era is proving efficient in terms of capacity. Not only is the district saving money by not having to run the three schools it closed (about $400,000 a year for each one) , but the remaining Westside schools are more evened out in terms of space available, according to a separate D-11 utilization spreadsheet provided by Poore that compares fall 2008 with fall 2010. In the cases of Howbert and Jackson, whose attendance areas grew the most because of the closures, additions were built in 2009 to offset possible overcrowding. Howbert had been at 115 percent capacity in fall 2008 and is now at 88 percent, the utilization spreadsheet shows.
       Vaupel's report compares Westside-school enrollment numbers in May 2009 with March of this year. There were some minor changes from Westside schools' boundaries for elementary schools in 2009 - one of them being to have no attendance areas that go east of I-25 - but it remains about the same overall size as before.
       (Note: Attendance areas are only guidelines. District 11 allows parents to “choice” their students into any of its schools.)
       Vaupel's report states that in May 2009, the Westside's eight D-11 Westside elementary schools south of Garden of the Gods Road had 1,550 students.
  • 60 percent of these students were “in-boundary” students, attending their home school. (All the D-11 elementaries at that time had attendance areas.)
  • 20 percent were attending on permit from other Westside school attendance areas.
  • 13 percent were attending on permit from other D-11 attendance areas.
  • 7.5 percent were attending on permit from other districts.
           In March 2011, for roughly the same area, the Westside had 1,588 students enrolled in seven elementaries - an increase of 38 students overall.
  • 56 percent of these students were “in-boundary” students (Buena Vista and AACL have no attendance areas).
  • 19 percent were attending on permit from other Westside school attendance areas.
  • 15 percent were attending on permit from other D-11 attendance areas.
  • 11 percent were attending on permit from other districts.
           During this same time period, the report continues, “permits to other D-11 schools from students in the west boundary areas has remained relatively stable, declining by 5 students.”
           Vaupel cautioned against comparing individual Westside schools enrollment numbers between 2009 and 2011. Because of the closures and other changes, that would be like “apples and oranges,” she said.
           However, such school-by-school numbers do reveal one interesting statistic - that Buena Vista is drawing noticeably more from other Westside school attendance areas than before. In 2009, at its historic location when it had an attendance area of its own and offered a mix of Montessori and traditional education, about 16 percent of its 177 students came from other Westside attendance areas. In March, after moving to the former Washington building, becoming 100 percent Montessori and giving up an attendance area, BV was attracting 43 percent of its 159 students from other Westside schools.

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