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Clark-Pleasant considers redrawing elementary boundaries

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Starting next year, up to 140 Clark-Pleasant elementary students could be sent to different schools, and the school district is also considering whether it will need new or bigger buildings as the number of new students keeps rising.

Clark, Break-O-Day and Sawmill Woods elementary schools are out of space. Earlier this year at Clark Elementary, offices and staff training rooms had to be turned into classrooms for the school’s 675 students, interim Superintendent Becky Courtney-Knight said.

Clark-Pleasant is planning to transfer about 100 students from Clark Elementary to Pleasant Crossing Elementary, and about 40 students from Break-O-Day and Sawmill Woods elementary schools to Whiteland Elementary. Pleasant Crossing Elementary has room for about 200 more students, and Whiteland Elementary has room for about 75 more students. The school district is now considering which neighborhoods those students could come from, Courtney-Knight said.

But transferring students to different elementary schools is a temporary solution for Clark-Pleasant, which saw the number of new students spike from 19 in 2011 to 120 in 2012.

Pleasant Crossing Elementary, which is in Whiteland near Stones Crossing and Worthsville roads, was built to ease elementary school crowding due to growth. But as school officials consider transferring students from Clark Elementary they also have to keep classroom space available at Pleasant Crossing Elementary for students who move into the school district.

Courtney-Knight is also concerned about how much space Clark-Pleasant will need as those elementary students grow up. Currently, Clark-Pleasant Intermediate is out of classroom space, and while the freshman center at Whiteland Community High School has extra room, the main building does not, Courtney-Knight said.

Clark-Pleasant has not wanted to do any building projects or upgrades because of property tax caps, which limit both the amount of money the school district collects for upgrades as well as the amount available to repay debt.

But if enrollment projections are accurate, which predict Clark-Pleasant will get 110 to 200 new students each year for the next five years, the school district might have to consider adding on to existing buildings or building new ones, Courtney-Knight said.

“If you knew nobody else would be moving in it would be really easy to make this determination,” she said.

Because new buildings or expansions could require a referendum any projects the school district decides on will need residents’ support, Courtney-Knight said.

“You want it to be good, something that serves the community and is in the community’s best interest,” she said.

To ensure residents know all of the details Clark-Pleasant is considering before it redraws the elementary school boundaries, the school district is hosting a public meeting Feb. 12.

Families in neighborhoods Clark-Pleasant is considering transferring from one school to another could also start receiving notice as early as this weekend.

School officials want to avoid splitting neighborhoods, with half of the students going to Clark Elementary and half going to Pleasant Crossing Elementary.

The school district also wants to be sure students won’t have to spend 20 or 30 minutes on a bus when an elementary school is just five minutes from their house, Courtney-Knight said.

“If (students) are going to move, they want to move with their friends from their neighborhood,” she said.

Clark-Pleasant’s enrollment has been spiking for more than 10 years as new homes and housing developments have been built, and the number of students peaked during the 2005-06 school year with 490 new students.

And most of those elementary students lived within Clark Elementary’s boundaries.

About 18 years ago Clark Elementary had about 200 students, but by 2011 that number had climbed to 650.

By then school officials decided to send any students moving into the Beacon Pointe apartments, which are near Freedom Park in Greenwood, to Whiteland Elementary instead.

Transferring students from Clark, Break-O-Day and Sawmill Woods Elementaries will open up classroom space and also ensure class sizes don’t get too large, Courtney-Knight said.

Typically kindergarten through second-grade classes shouldn’t have more than about 20 students, while third- and fourth-grade classes can have class sizes in the mid- to upper-20s.

Class sizes any larger can be difficult for teachers to be able to provide individual and small group instruction for students, Courtney-Knight said.

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