in Redmond Ridge is crowded. Overcrowded, in fact. Enrollment reached 796 students and counting this week, with a record number of young kids now attending a school originally designed for 483.
Concerned community members spoke once more before the board Monday, urging emergency action to reduce Rosa Parks' out-of-control enrollment schoolwide by 2013-14. Without an expedited district process, the school will continue to experience extreme crowding in an environment that hinders safety and educational development every day.
The numbers problem at Rosa Parks is not new, as the school has seen growing enrollment over the past several years. But the rate of home construction in family-friendly Redmond Ridge East has now escalated, expected to surge over the next two years toward completion. Without a district plan to manage growth, Rosa Parks faces the very real possibility of 900 students next year, based on recent real-estate projections. At this number of students, mitigations such as scheduling and crowd-control efforts are simply ineffective. Too much uncertainty surrounds voter approval of a possible 2014 ballot measure to fund and build a future elementary in Redmond Ridge East.
Even more frustrating for community members is the knowledge that nearby, top-rated Wilder Elementary is well under capacity as it declines toward a projected 280-300 students and 10-plus empty classrooms. Teachers at Wilder have transferred to Rosa Parks to accommodate the huge number of new students there. As Wilder's classrooms have opened up, Rosa Parks gained 10 portables that split grade levels and cut usable playground space in half.
Research has shown time and again that large schools like this lower academic achievement and extracurricular opportunities while increasing costs to the taxpayer. A child's sense of safety and connectedness is also compromised at a school this huge. Restrictions on kids at recess have increased to the point that running is no longer allowed.
A smaller, more manageable Rosa Parks would help personalize the learning environment and enable students to form meaningful relationships with peers and teachers at the school. Opportunities would exist for pull-out enrichment and small-group learning, which is currently difficult to schedule with space demands from so many classrooms. Every student would have the chance to participate in extracurricular activities at a school where 65 students were cut from a drama production, leaving first graders in tears. It would mean students no longer need to eat lunch in front of the TV in classrooms, as the commons simply isn't big enough to contain them all.
New superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce will visit Rosa Parks later this month to discuss the long-range plan for Rosa Parks, and to seek feedback on potential short-term solutions for the 2013-14 school year. We ask her and board members to carefully review school input along with current data. It is past time for them to step up to the plate, do the right thing and lower enrollment significantly at Rosa Parks across all grade levels. Doing anything less only jeopardizes the future of 800 kids who have been ignored too long already.
Julianne Bogaty, Karen Swenson, Beth Zimmerman
Rosa Parks parents
Editor's note: .