WASHINGTON — Enrollment is growing the Central School District, and there's no end in sight.
There's an all-time high 1,350 students in the K-8 district this school year, according to the sixth-day enrollment figure, and that number is expected to climb to 1,426 by 2021, a nearly 6 percent increase.
The district has two schools: K-3 Central Primary School, which opened in 2009, and grades 4-8 Central Intermediate School.
Four of the six second-grade sections in the Primary School are using modular classrooms this school year. More than 90 of the 138 second-grade students are in a modular classroom.
Modular classrooms are a temporary solution to problems caused by increasing enrollment. And not a perfect one, according to Central School District Superintendent Dale Heidbreder.
"A modular classroom is smaller than a standard-sized classroom," Heidbreder said.
Then there's the issue of students being away from the main building.
Heidbreder said procedures are in place so students in Central Primary's modular classrooms can safely move into the main building if threatening weather is forecast.
"Unfortunately, I don't see the modular classrooms going away next school year," Heidbreder said.
Before next school year begins, however, the district expects to have a long-term facilities plan in place.
Working with BLDD Architects, the district has begun the process, which includes a series of three community engagement meetings.
The first meeting, titled "Discovery," was held Tuesday. The next meeting is Oct. 24 and called "Building Solutions." An "Options Forum" is Nov. 7. Each session is from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Central Primary gym.
"We truly want to hear what the community wants to say," Heidbreder said.
After the community engagement process has concluded, a long-term facilities plan will be presented to the School Board in December by a 15-member leadership committee made up of school staff and community members.
For those who missed last week's meeting, a 77-page facilities presentation with accompanying comments by Heidbreder is on the district's website, www.central51.net. There's also an opportunity on the website to sign up for the final two community engagement meetings.
"We look at this process as a two-fold opportunity," Heidbreder said. "We can address our enrollment and capacity issues, and at the same time create the best environment we can for our students to learn."
A major reason for the community engagement meetings, Heidbreder said, is to inform residents about the increasing importance and changing look of a school building.
Heidbreder said the modern job world, which requires more collaboration than in the past, combined with evolving technology makes education look much different than it did not too many years ago.
"We frequently hear people say the schools they attended years ago were good enough for them," Heidbreder said. "That's not the case anymore. We're preparing our students for jobs that don't exist today."
Several new positions have been added to the Central School District's staff since 2015 to keep up with the influx of students.
These include a curriculum director, technology coordinator, technology assistant, two first-grade teachers, special education teacher, part-time Spanish teacher, counselor, social worker, part-time nurse, transportation coordinator, bus driver for a new bus route and payroll clerk.
An assistant principal and art teacher are among new positions being considered for the 2018-2019 school year.
Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.