Alpine School District deals with student growth spurt


    By Shaughan Sparks

    When Jack bought the beans that sprouted the infamous beanstalk, he could not have predicted the rapid growth that would take place nor where it would lead.

    The Alpine District School Board is in a somewhat similar situation right now as they attempt to deal with the exponential growth they are experiencing.

    In their attempt to address the issues of overcrowding caused by this growth, the school board is contemplating passing a resolution to hold a bond election on May 8. The proposed $200 million bond would attempt to solve the issues associated with overcrowding.

    Dr. Vern Henshaw, the superintendent of the Alpine School District, said the school board feels that it”s important to work hand in hand with the district”s patrons.

    This feeling was the basis for a survey conducted earlier this month by independent research firm, Insight Research, among patrons of the Alpine School District.

    Henshaw said the district commissioned the survey because, “We wanted to get a perception of how our patrons felt about our growth and if it was perceived as an issue.” Henshaw said the district also wanted to get public input on how to deal with the overcrowding issue.

    According to survey results, the public overwhelmingly feels that overcrowding is an issue. Of the survey”s 600 respondents, 43% indicated that the new growth in the district is a very serious problem, while 44% said it is a somewhat serious problem. Only 1% indicated their belief that the issue of overcrowding is not at all serious.

    Henshaw said the district is being faced with the prospect of 10,000 new students within the next six to eight years.

    “We are already bulging at the seams; we have to do something now, or face a potential crisis,” he said.

    There are many ways the district has looked at to solve the overcrowding issue, including building additional schools, moving to a year-round schedule, installing more portable classrooms, increasing class size, scheduling double sessions and providing busing to move students to less crowded schools.

    According to survey results, public opinion is strongest in favor of building new schools. Ninety three percent of respondents favor this option. The second most favored option only comes in at 55 percent. Increasing class size is the least favored option, with just 8 percent of respondents in favor of the action.

    Taking into account public opinion, Henshaw said preliminary plans call for the construction of 11 new schools and the renovation of 30 existing facilities over the next four to five years.

    Whether or not the proposed construction will take place is currently in the hands of the school board. Henshaw said the board will continue to gather public input this month and vote to pass the resolution to hold the bond sometime next month.

    If the resolution passes, the fate of the bond will be in the hands of citizens. Between 66 and 67 percent of patrons surveyed said they would have voted for the bond if it was held the day they were surveyed.

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