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Middletown Area School District survey looks for your input about how to address student growth

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 1/29/19

Middletown Area School District wants district staff, parents and residents to complete a brief survey to help the school board decide how best to meet future projected enrollment increases in the …

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Middletown Area School District survey looks for your input about how to address student growth

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Middletown Area School District wants district staff, parents and residents to complete a brief survey to help the school board decide how best to meet future projected enrollment increases in the elementary grades.

The survey has three questions. The first asks those responding to say whether they are a parent, a district resident or someone employed by the school district. The survey does not ask respondents to identify themselves by name.

The second asks respondents rank in order from 1 to 12 what they see as most important as priorities regarding the impact of any potential elementary school project.

The third question asks respondents whether they prefer a “center-based model” — where all elementary students grades kindergarten through 5 are clustered upon one site — or whether respondents prefer the existing model, where district elementary students are housed in three different buildings at three different locations.

The survey also allows respondents to provide additional comment, if they wish.

You can complete the survey online by going to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DF26VLY.

The survey link is to also be made available at the school district website, www.raiderweb.org.

People need to complete the survey by the end of Feb. 4. The school district wants survey results available for the school board to discuss during its next board meeting on Feb. 5.

Consultants to the district are recommending that MASD plan for at least a 10 percent increase in the current elementary enrollment of 1,163.

The district does not have enough room in its elementary buildings to handle this projected increase, district officials say. The consultants have not estimated how many years it will take before enrollment grows by the projected 10 percent.

The third survey question regarding whether to go to a center-based model is key, as the district is considering whether to relocate all elementary students on the same campus that now includes Reid Elementary School, the middle school, and the high school along Route 441 in Lower Swatara Township.

This could be accomplished by the school district constructing a new building to house elementary students on the campus, in addition to renovating the Reid building.

At present, district elementary students are housed in three buildings at three locations — at the Reid building, in Fink Elementary School in Middletown, and at Kunkel Elementary School along Fulling Mill Road in Lower Swatara Township.

One of the main factors driving the need to act is that the Kunkel building is in need of renovations and expansion.

The concept of housing all elementary students on one campus surfaced in August, when the district learned that 239 acres of farmland surrounding the Kunkel school in the township had been put up for sale.

At that point, the district and board had concluded that having a school at Kunkel was no longer in its best interests, as officials fear losing control of land surrounding the school if the farmland is sold and the zoning is changed.

However, some district parents and residents argued in favor of keeping the option of renovating or expanding Kunkel — or perhaps even building a new Kunkel at the site — during a Nov. 28 public meeting that the board held on the proposed elementary reconfiguration.

The district and the school board at that Nov. 28 meeting laid out several specific options for how to meet the anticipated future projected enrollment elementary increases.

The options range from a complete shift to the center-based model — which could lead to closing both Fink and Kunkel — to a hybrid solution keeping Fink open as a school in some capacity — or in light of the Nov. 28 meeting, a reconsideration of staying with Kunkel, in which case the new reconfiguration could end up looking a great deal like the status quo.

But the survey does not present these specific options, or ask respondents which option they prefer.

Board members in discussing the survey concluded it best that responses to the survey be conceptual in nature, to give the board a sense of how people view the issue in general.

The board and the district can then go about deciding which option best reflects public sentiment.

How district teachers and staff view the issue is also seen as key — especially regarding how they view the center-based model.

Superintendent Lori Suski has said that when the question of going to a center-based model was put to district teachers in an internal survey a few years ago, the faculty came back split — 50 percent preferred the center-based model but 50 percent favored retaining the current model.

Residents at the Nov. 28 meeting urged the district to look at research that has been done regarding whether the center-based model or having schools in different locations is best, in terms of educating children.

The district has been doing this, Suski told the board on Jan. 22, but the results so far are inconclusive.

There does not appear to be a lot of research that would settle the question for the district either way — center-based vs. the traditional model — Suski told the board.

The survey also does not present respondents with any information regarding the potential cost of any project that would give the district the increased space to meet the future enrollment challenge.

All the options would require an increase in district property taxes — large enough that the increase would need to be phased in over a number of years, district Chief Financial Officer David Franklin has said.