The numbers aren't in yet, but Albany school officials are taking steps now to ease the enrollment pressure they're expecting when school starts next month.
Changes include revoking nearly two dozen transfers at Liberty Elementary School, adding modular classrooms at Periwinkle Elementary and shifting some students and a teacher between Fir Grove and North Albany elementary schools.
The district also made a change earlier this year to attendance boundaries, moving 126 homes planned in the Vreeland Estates development and some adjoining neighborhoods from the Oak Elementary School boundary to the Periwinkle boundary.
Registration is still going on, Superintendent Jim Golden told the Albany School Board on Monday, so the district is just guessing at total enrollment. But last year's total count as of April 2016, including online students, was 9,587, and whether that holds or grows, that's a lot of bodies to house.
Periwinkle’s new four-classroom modular building will take off some of the pressure, because its central location makes it a possible overflow building for several nearby schools, said Heather Huzefka, the federal programs and student services director for Greater Albany Public Schools.
Foundation work was going on at the school this week and the building is scheduled to be in place by the Sept. 6 start date.
The school district is planning a bond request next spring that likely will ask voters for at least one larger, replacement elementary school to make room for more students. Two replacement schools have been recommended, but board members have made no decisions on the specifics of the bond request.
Enrollment pressure is particularly strong at Liberty, said Heather Huzefka, the federal programs and student services director for Greater Albany Public Schools. So far, about 20 students have had transfer requests revoked for the coming school year.
The district worked through the denials on a last-come, last-accepted basis, Huzefka said.
Some of the 20 students would have been new to Liberty this year, but others had been there for a year or more — and some have siblings at the school, she said.
Huzefka said she and Principal Rich Sipe got together and looked at numbers, finding the biggest classes this fall are expected in second, third and fourth grades.
“We looked at how many of the students in those grade levels were currently on a transfer and how large the class sizes were, and we could see current second graders last year that were going into third grade, we had class sizes already of 30 in each class,” she said. “Yet we had 15 of those total 60 students on transfers, which meant if we kept everybody continuing at Liberty, any new families moving in wouldn’t have a spot."
Huzefka said parents were asked to apply again in July. Several did, but new families who live in the attendance boundary registered in the meantime, which meant not everyone was able to be taken back. She has been working with those families on second or third choices.
Liberty is the school with the largest number of revoked transfers, but it isn’t the only one, she added. Some incoming first-graders from Fir Grove were moved to North Albany Elementary to free up space. A kindergarten teacher was moved from North Albany to Fir Grove to cover large class sizes there.
“As the person who's been making the calls, most all parents have been very understanding and trying to find a solution that's best for their family,” she said. “Maybe we haven't met their first choice, but we’re trying to meet their needs.”