The Elmbrook School District could close two of its six elementary schools, save about $2.6 million per year and still have enough building space to educate its projected 10-year resident enrollment plus some open enrollment students, a new report says.
But the report emphasized its authors were not making a recommendation that Elmbrook close two elementary schools.
Rather, the report says its goal is "to establish a cost baseline defined by the minimum elementary school building capacity required to educate resident only Elmbrook students."
Elmbrook needs to operate a minimum of four elementary schools to serve its future enrollment, the report says.
"It was concluded that a four-school configuration providing a 19 'section' capability would be adequate," it states.
The School Board will discuss the report's findings and school closure issues at a work session open to the public. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the district administration offices, 13780 Hope St.
Declining enrollment, excess school space and five-year deficits have prompted the School Board to consider closing one or more schools.
A year ago, Tonawanda and Hillside elementary schools — the district's smallest buildings — were debated for possible closure, drawing vocal opposition from those schools' families, particularly in Elm Grove.
Tonawanda is the only Elmbrook elementary school in Elm Grove; the rest are in Brookfield. Families rallied for a neighborhood school to which their children can walk.
The latest report shows Tonawanda and Hillside remain the most likely targets for school closure.
Two options in which either Dixon or Brookfield elementary school would be closed — or both — were less favorable because they would result in fewer available classrooms and tighter building capacity if the district continues to accept students through the state's open enrollment program.
The report was prepared by the five-member "Base Case Team," comprised of Keith Brightman, assistant superintendent of finance and operations; Christine Hedstrom, assistant superintendent for human resources (before she left Elmbrook to join the Waukesha School District); Glen Allgaier, School Board member; Jana Pagel, elementary school parent; and Jerry Theder, retired business executive.
After crunching considerable numbers, the Base Case Team concluded the average cost of keeping an elementary school open (or the savings to close it) is about $1.3 million a year.
Accepting open enrollment students nets Elmbrook about $1,000 per student, according to the report.
Excess school space
During the most recent 2010-'11 school year, about 29 percent of the total space in the district's six elementary schools was not used, the report found.
Elmbrook had 2,800 elementary school students last year — 2,478 who live in Elmbrook's boundary and 322 who enroll from other communities through the state's open enrollment and Chapter 220 programs.
That equates to about 12 percent "non-resident" enrollment, or students who reside outside the district's boundaries of Brookfield, Elm Grove and small parts of the Town of Brookfield and New Berlin.
The six schools could support a maximum enrollment of 3,950 students, compared to the current 2,800.
The six schools have a total of 150 classrooms, enough to provide 25 district "sections" or classes for each grade level from kindergarten through 5th grade.
Elmbrook's enrollment supports a minimum of 114 total classrooms or 19 "sections" per grade level, the report says.
So which schools are needed to provide those 114 rooms and 19 sections? Or conversely, where could Elmbrook cut 36 rooms or six sections?
The report includes five scenerios, including keeping all six schools open, and the resulting impact on rooms and space utilitization. None of the scenerios would close Burleigh or Swanson. Only three of the five options meet the minimum 114 rooms and 19 sections the report says Elmbrook needs:
Closing Dixon and Brookfield elementary: Provides 102 rooms and 17 sections. Could not support current or future non-resident enrollment.
Closing either Dixon or Brookfield and either Hillside or Tonawanda: Provides 108 rooms and 18 sections. Would be slightly over capacity, under maximum projected enrollments, if non-resident students are included.
Closing Hillside and Tonawanda: Provides 114 rooms and 19 sections. Meets capacity with excess (unused) space.
Closing Hillside or Tonawanda (not both): Provides 132 rooms and 22 sections. Meets capacity with greater excess space.
Keeping all six schools open: Provides 150 rooms and 25 sections. Meets capacity, leaving the most excess space.
Here are the sections and rooms currently available in each elementary school, according to the report:
|Source: Elmbrook Elementary School "Base Case" Report|
The report notes that the calculations did not take into account four-year-old kindergarten, which Elmbrook currently does not offer.
However, Elmbrook would have enough room to add 4K as long as it operates at least four elementary schools, the report says.