2016-2017 Student Enrollment Conversation Begins

At the Board of Education work session on Tuesday, staff led a discussion on the student enrollment process for the 2016-2017 school year.

Yes.  It’s that time already.

WCPSS expects to add 19,600 students between now and 2020 – that’s more than 3,200 new students every year.  And from 2016-2019, WCPSS will open fourteen schools.

The discussion on Tuesday focused only on the 2016-17 year, when five schools will open.

2016-17 School Opening Schools that May be Impacted
White Oak ES  Highcroft ES                 Turner Creek ES
  Mills Park ES
Oakview ES  Holly Grove ES             Middle Creek ES
  Holly Ridge ES              Penny Road ES
  Holly Springs ES
E38 (Near Brier Creek ES)  Brier Creek ES              Stough ES
  Leesville Road ES         Sycamore ES
Beaverdam ES  Brentwood ES              Harris Creek ES
  Forestville Road ES     Wilburn ES
  Lockhart ES
Pine Hollow MS  Carroll MS                    Mills Park MS
  Daniels MS                   West Millbrook MS
  Leesville Road MS

Staff reviewed the four pillars of WCPSS Policy 6200: Student Assignment.  Those four pillars are Student Achievement, Stability, Proximity, and Operational Efficiency.  But the greatest amount of time was spent on explaining how base attendance areas for new schools are determined.

Last year was the first year that the district, partnering with the Operational Research and Education Laboratory (OREd), used an optimization algorithm to help set base attendance areas.  That algorithm factored in stability, proximity to school, building utilization, anticipated growth, and the impact of future base attendance areas.  (It might help to underscore that stability here means minimizing the number of families that will be affected by assignment changes when new schools open.)

The algorithm is a set of operations that the software performs to determine the best outcome.  If the algorithm is set to prioritize stability (minimize the number of families affected when setting a new base attendance area for a new school), then it will consider all options that will accomplish this goal.

But an algorithm needs a set of parameters within which to perform its functions.  In this case, it needs to know which schools’ students to consider to moving to the new school that will open.  That is what is known as an impact area.  And the message was clear on Tuesday that, “the impact area used for optimization is the most critical input in the process.”

This may seem like a no-brainer.  But, it’s not.  Opening a new school can impact numerous schools nearby in domino-like fashion.  Are all of those schools overcrowded?  Do some need more relief than others?  Which schools operate on the same calendar as the new school?  And which combination of schools will impact the fewest number of families for reassignment as well as make best use of a new facility?

Board of Education members will be working with staff to determine the impact area for each new school as it opens.  And it bears repeating: we have many new schools that will be opening.  Five schools will open in the 2016-17 year; three will open in the 2017-18 year; six will open in the 2018-19 year.

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