St. Charles School District 303 weighing repurposing elementary school buildings

School buses

Administrators in St. Charles School District 303 are considering repurposing two schools to combat overcrowding and to comply with newly-identified space standards in a districtwide facilities master plan.

Beginning in the 2024-25 school year, Fox Ridge Early Childhood Center likely will become an elementary school and early childhood care could be moved to the Haines Center. Lincoln Elementary School may be repurposed as administrative office space with some student programming.

It is unclear how these changes would affect Compass Academy, which is housed at the Haines Center, along with the district’s transitions program.

Executive Director of Elementary Education Jarrod Buxton said there would be no change to the number of elementary schools in the district, but staff may be reassigned to different buildings.

Superintendent Paul Gordon said the facility changes being considered would require some construction at the Haines Center and Lincoln Elementary School. He said the elementary schools are significantly overcrowded and several students already have been transferred to other district schools.

The district has been working with RSP & Associates, which has analyzed the community’s birth rates, areas of building and development, and identified the district’s “hot spot” areas with growing high-density populations.

RSP will use the district’s space standards to determine the functional capacity numbers, which will be presented to the school board at its meeting June 12.

The district’s minimum space standards for the elementary schools require each building to have at least 21 classrooms – 18 core classrooms, two elective classrooms and one repurposed classroom. Schools near the identified “hot spots” would require two repurposed classrooms.

The space standards also call for a maximum class size of 25 for kindergarten and first grade and 27 for grades 2 through 5. The district will identify minimum space standards for its middle schools and high schools this fall.

Lincoln meets very few of the space standards identified by the administration.

A cost analysis of these changes will be presented to the school board for discussion at Thursday’s Business Services Committee meeting.

Boundary changes to the district’s enrollment zones are the next step in the master plan. The school board will begin reviewing the zone changes this fall.

Buxton said the changes to the zones will be necessary to ensure the right number of students is in each building.

If the facility changes are approved, construction contracts are expected to go out for bid this fall with construction to begin in the summer of 2024 and completed before the school year begins that fall.

The board will vote on the facility changes at its June 12 meeting and will consider boundary line changes later this year.

All facility and boundary changes would go into effect at the start of the 2024-25 school year.