School Board Meeting 2016 May 23

The school board meeting of 2016 May 9 showed some recalculations of school capacity, working out “instructional capacity” of the different elementary schools.

The May 9 capacity presentation document shows that rather than number-of-rooms X room-capacity = school capacity, the different instructional programs at an elementary school all require different levels of resources, and produce a different, and smaller measure of capacity.    For Yorktown Elementary, it has a building capacity of 734, an original instructional capacity of 670, and a current instructional capacity of 608.  These capacities, compared to the current enrollment of 699 show that YES exceeds instructional capacity by 91 students.    Several of the other schools are similarly overcapacity (see slide 9).

If you order the schools geographically, as on the YCSD map, rather than alphabetically, as in the YCSD spreadsheet, you can see that the overcrowding is loaded on the north end of York County, and any solution would have to focus on the north end.

I copied the capacity data into a spreadsheet, ordered it geographically, and put the capacity overflows onto the map, and tried to show the ways potential rezoning would have to move the borders in the map below:

YES_EnrollmentsThe +/- numbered on the segments are the overcapacity enrollments(+) and the excess capacity(-).  If you wanted to bring these to capacity with contiguous borders, you’d have to move the Waller Mill border north by 96 students, then the Macgruder border north by 96+75 =171 students, then the Yorktown elementary border up by 171+91=262 students, etc…  These boundary movements are shown on the image by the tags with the less-than signs like “<262” near the boundaries.  To re-zone to fit the elementary students into the 2016 instructional capacities, the school board would have had to move the boundaries significantly, all the way down to the Grafton-Bethel / Mount Vernon boundary.  Note that this is with no allowance for uncertainty or excess capacity. If you wanted to distribute the excess capacity of 194 students or 3% across all the schools, you’d have to move all the borders.

I spoke about this, along with other capacities, and future planning at the School board meeting on May 23.

The main points I wanted to get across were:

  • It is good that YCSD is looking this closely at capacity — the YCBS said they didn’t understand the YCSD capacity issues from previous presentations.
  • That the increases are at the north end of the county
  • Shifting the boundaries to meet the capacities would have a ripple effect down to Mount Vernon
  • Overcapacity at YES in 2016 (enrollment 699-713)  made the school substandard in terms of hard surface playgrounds (1 our of the 2 required in 2016, zero out of the 2 required in 2017) , parking (people park in the ditch and bike lane), and lot size (the 14 acre site as 10.76 acres of usable area for a site capacity of 676 students. (see notes here.)
  • The county’s prioritization of schools on the bottom of the list cuts of 9M to the CIP in 2017 and 26M over the next three years, forcing either substandard schools or significant rezoning.
  • With the limited resources, does the overcrowding at the north end of the county mean the north end of the county is on the bottom of the list?
  • Multiple priorities and limited resources means that something has to give. The tradeoffs and choices that the county and school board made and will make determine whether it is contiguous boundaries, consistent attendance in schools, consistent zoning, or schools meeting the state standards that will slip.
  • I hope that the school board will do a better job recognizing and communicating the deficiencies and tradeoffs inherent in their choices to both their constituents and to the board of supervisors.

I don’t know if I got this all across during my 3 minutes at the May 23 meeting, but I think the last point was the most important– the tradeoffs are happening, and we should be clear about what they are.  For 2015-2016, York County chose overcrowded, substandard schools over rezoning.  When the county chose to defer the new elementary school and put the total elementary instructional capacity for 2015-2016 at 97%, they chose to put the rezoning/overcrowding choice onto the school board.

In terms of rezoning, I really wish they had the May 9th capacity numbers worked out well before the start of the 2015-2016 year (and before the FY2017 budget), and had rezoned to make the enrollments fit the capacities.

For the 2017-2018 year, they should update the capacities to include the effects of the new construction and temporary buildings, add in some fraction of the expected new students from developments, and rezone the county to meet the capacities.  And they could and should do that right now.

Update 2016-06-14: In the video recording of the May 9 meeting, Dr. James says the 85-90% of instructional capacity is a good level (see video at 33:42)  Note that the entire system is currently at 97% and is projected to go to 101%–there is no way to rezone, redistrict, or redistribute 97% total capacity to get to 85-90% capacity at the schools.