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School Board approves its ‘vision’ for enrollment, programs, facilities

By Bill Short

Millington Schools logoThe Millington School Board has approved a Five-Year Plan that describes its “vision” of the municipal school system’s future needs in enrollment, programs and facilities.
Board members took the action during a March 20 special called meeting on a motion offered by Larry Jackson and seconded by Louise Kennon.
The motion was passed by a 5-2 vote, with Chairman Don Holsinger and Vice Chairman Greg Ritter dissenting.
The plan was presented by Nedra Jones, Shared Services planner for the school system. She said it is organized around three main subject areas: (1) enrollment, (2) programs and (3) facilities.
“They work interdependently of each other,” she noted. “So, changes in one area oftentimes affect the others.”
Jones said the “process” of preparing the plan consisted of three phases. Phase I involved collecting data on the three subject areas. In Phase II, the data were “integrated” and, in Phase III, they were analyzed.
She said the Millington school system currently has a total enrollment of 2,683 students, which does not include an estimated 100 pre-school or Pre-K students.
Based on analysis of the 2009 to 2013 school years, Jones said the historical five-year average of the school system’s In-District enrollment is 2,570 students.
“Right now, we’re at 2,276,” she noted. “So, that tells me that we have 200 to 300 students living in the district but not attending school here.”
Jones said that, before the municipal district was established, many of those students were attending Bolton High School, while some were at Lucy, E. E. Jeter and Woodstock Elementary schools.
“If they decide to come back, you’ve got to accommodate them,” she noted. “So, you need to be mindful of how many Out-of-District students you’re actually allowing into the district and what you can accommodate, because these decisions have financial implications in terms of your staffing.”
Although 215 of the Out-of-District students are attending Millington Central High School, Jones said 49 are at Millington Elementary, 53 at E. A. Harrold Elementary and 90 at Millington Middle School.
She said projected enrollment indicates that the school system will lose 3 to 5 percent of its students during the next five years.
“The decline seems to be occurring at the elementary and high school grade levels,” she noted. “Your middle school enrollment is showing some growth at about 10 percent.”
Jones said that, between the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census, the “pattern of decline” in Millington’s total population was about 2.5 percent. And the number of school-aged children decreased approximately 21 percent during that decade.
“I attribute that to Millington having a lot of renter-occupied housing,” she said. “And with the Navy facility here, you tend to have a lot of mobility and transiency in those numbers as well.”
Jones said analyzing the current enrollment by grade group and comparing that to the existing capacity within the school buildings produces a “utilization rate.”
“So, capacity is looking at the number of general education classrooms that we can use for instruction,” she noted. “We’re talking about an average of 20 to 25 students per teacher.”
Jones said the K-5 and 9-12 grade groups have some capacity if any additional students come into the district. She noted that the high school has the capacity for 1,440 students this year.
“We did not count the Freshmen Academy classrooms,” she acknowledged, “because environmental issues prevent us from actually using that facility right now. Once that building is renovated and brought back on line, we’ll determine how many classrooms we are really going to be using.”
Jones said some of the program initiatives involve expanding Pre-K, as well as the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Program, and upgrading the technology infrastructure.
The school system currently has one pre-school class and four Pre-K classes.
Pre-school serves 3-year-old children and those who have either a physical or developmental disability. Pre-K serves 4-year-olds, and Jones said priority is given to students who are at risk.
“Pre-K has been a hot topic here lately,” she acknowledged. “The district has plans to expand that program and add at least one more Pre-K class next year.”
Also being explored is the possibility of expanding the STEM Program at the middle school and high school.
Jones noted that the Pre-K and STEM Programs must have their own classroom as well as storage space, because they come with a lot of instructional materials.
“A lot of districts are either sharing their science lab space or just converting it into a STEM lab,” she said. “So, when the science lab isn’t being used, they will schedule a STEM class in that space.”
While she believes the high school could accommodate the STEM Program “fairly easily,” Jones said some space adjustment or classroom sharing may be necessary at the middle school.
For the technology budget, she said the plan includes $3.8 million over the next five years to benefit the instructional time in the classroom.
“We’re going more in the direction of online testing through the state,” she noted. “It’s used in the classroom for instructional purposes or things like streaming video.”
Also being explored is the possibility of doing a “one-to-one initiative,” which would allow students to bring their own devices to school for instructional purposes. But Jones said all of that requires a larger or more expansive network.
She acknowledged that, historically, technology was not included in the Capital Improvements Program. But because equipment has aged, the “wires, switches and connectors” behind the walls must be upgraded.
“And since it is a physical part of the building,” she said, “we felt like we could put it in the budget and request funding for it.”
Jones said the information regarding facilities is gathered during an annual audit by the school system’s Operations Division, which identifies what needs to be repaired or replaced.
While noting that the “deferred maintenance costs” total $15.5 million, she said each of Millington’s school buildings is rated in fair to good condition except E. A. Harrold, which is rated fair to poor.
“When you compare the total five-year CIP Budget to the total deferred maintenance costs,” Jones said, “we have about an $8 million gap in funding. The longer you delay repairs, the more costly they become. You increase your risk of liability, and there are increasing safety hazards that go along with that.”
For the CIP Budget, she said the school system anticipates receiving approximately $1.5 million annually from the Shelby County Commission.
“We assume that we’ll continue to receive that, based on our Average Daily Attendance,” she noted. “As long as Shelby County Schools requests funds, it’s our understanding that the municipal school district should receive a percentage of that as well.”
The cost of demolishing E. A. Harrold and constructing a new school is estimated at $14 million. But Jones said another option would be to convert the middle school into an elementary school, at an estimated cost of $1 million.
Despite the overcrowding, she said the middle school is “functioning OK” in its existing building. But if growth continues, the district will have to determine whether to build a new school, construct an addition onto the building, install portable classrooms or “reconfigure” the grade structure.
“The district has to think about all those consequences that go along with delaying maintenance on a school building,” Jones concluded. “So, it’s incumbent upon us to think of some alternative strategies for addressing deferred maintenance.”

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