A message from the Superintendent

The first commencement for students of Chaska Public School was in 1899 for four graduates. Last May, we graduated 745 students. Enrollment for grades K-12 exceeds 9,600. The last 30 years have been the most significant time of growth. We had five K-12 school buildings in 1988. Now we have 14, plus one for early childhood program and one with a transition program for students ages 17-21. Student enrollment tripled in that same time. What may be most surprising is that about half of the land in Eastern Carver County Schools is undeveloped. Housing growth may ebb and flow, but the long-term enrollment trajectory should remain upward.

While our schools, teachers and principals handle the day-to-day business of delivering exceptional, personalized learning, district administration is looking at future planning. The key metrics we track are student enrollment and school capacity. If you ask a principal what the “perfect” size is for their school, you will probably hear a figure that is between 85 percent and 90 percent of the building’s capacity. This allows for smoother operations such as lunch service, using gym space, and more orderly parent drop-off/pick-up. Enrollment and capacity will determine staffing levels and program opportunities for students.  Principals want to ensure they have adequate staffing to maintain outstanding level of programming we have for students today. As the building grows closer to 100% capacity it begins to impact class size, and can lead to using spaces not intended for classroom instruction like intervention supports and STEM labs. As a growing district, we have to pay attention more closely to the balance of enrollment and capacity.

During the 1980s, 1990s and the 2000s, our district’s capacity never matched enrollment. We housed elementary classrooms in strip mall storefronts. We created a stand-alone kindergarten center that gave our elementary schools more space for grades one through five. Class sizes in the past were larger than they are today. In the last decade, we have been able to match capacity and enrollment. We ended those space-maximizing practices and we have kept a hold of class sizes. But the new construction didn’t leave a lot of room for growth. Our construction plan has been conservative, trying to match capacity to enrollment. Carver Elementary is an example of building a school to meet the projected enrollments of that time (2015 through 2017). Currently, the school has capacity for about 40 to 60 additional students without creative problem-solving to make more classrooms. Even though we know the students will fill our schools in time, input with from our community indicate a conservative plan is better.

We have received a revised demographic study that shows continued, steady growth in Eastern Carver County Schools. The study uses projected housing growth as a major data point. As we know, decisions by builders and cities are not guaranteed. Housing could grow faster or slower than projected, but this is the best data we have to-date. The current estimate is that in five years, elementary enrollment across the district will exceed capacity by 600 students. Our past trend over the last 30 years of building two or three schools every 10 years looks like it might need to continue. A facility task force has studied classroom and space needs for three months and presented a recommendation on to the school board. We’ll have more on that plan in the weeks to come.

Clint Christopher, Superintendent
Eastern Carver County Schools