Housing developments approved in the Medford area spell potentially significant increases in students entering the school district's already overcrowded elementary schools.
Data and maps compiled by the city of Medford and combined with district information project how many students may relocate to or move within the district in the next few years. The numbers give a clearer picture of the growth the district needs to account for as it considers the long-term readiness of its facilities to house students.
City data showed that 23 new subdivisions and seven multi-family units within Medford have received building approval since 2012. The school district uses this data in conjunction with its own projections from a January enrollment forecast of how many K-12 students may come with that housing, to get a sense of the impact on schools.
Brad Earl, chief operations officer for the school district, presented the information to the School Board at a Nov. 20 work session. He used the boundaries of Elementary School Attendance Areas to show the individual effects on elementary schools based on the geographic distribution of the new housing units.
Hoover Elementary is projected to see the largest number of subdivisions and multi-family units — a total of 562 units — built within its ESSA in the next few years. The next highest number falls within Abraham Lincoln's with 245, followed by Jefferson Elementary's with 134.
Not all of these units will be filled by families of school-age children. Surrounding neighborhoods and birthrate trends play a role in determining whether more families can be expected to move there.
Earl also said that some of the migration will be internal — families moving from one part of the school district to another.
"I don’t want everybody to assume that it’s all going to be growth from families relocating to the area," Earl said. "But obviously we have to look at that."
Growth among Medford's elementary schools is not evenly distributed, which already has proved an issue. Hoover Elementary, for example, had the highest student population in September with 742 students; it has been at overcapacity for at least the last four school years, according to data from the district's long-range facilities plan.
The pending housing coming to Hoover's ESAA also falls in line with the projection from the school district's enrollment forecast: that Hoover will experience the greatest share of growth in both the short- and long-term. Although mitigating efforts such as modular classrooms help ease the pressure, they may not be enough.
"The Hoover ESAA, in particular, will likely need another school," the January report said.
For now, the district has other options to help ease overcrowding. Board Chairwoman Karen Starchvick said computer labs at some of the elementary schools could be turned into classrooms, as the use of mobile laptop computers has grown.
Starchvick said that possible decisions such as building additional schools — which would require voters to pass a bond measure — or moving sixth-graders from elementary to middle schools would not be made within the next year.
"We never planned to do anything next year," she said. "If we did plan to go out for a bond, it would never have been before 2019 or 2021."
The School Board is looking for a facilitator for its facilities study committee, which will recommend courses of action in the coming years. Starchvick said public input is a key part of the effort.
"We’re really open to suggestions," she said.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ka_tornay.