Northeastern population shift means reshuffling of elementary students
Northeastern School District recently redrew its electoral regions after shifting populations created an uneven split — and now it's time to do the same for its elementary schools.
York Haven and Conewago — the two outlying elementary schools in the district — are located in areas with growing populations, while Mount Wolf and Orendorf, which are in boroughs with little space for population growth, are not at capacity, said Superintendent Stacey Sidle.
The district is conducting an enrollment and population study to determine where students will go in the fall, said Dale Knepper, the district's director of physical plant, after a board meeting Tuesday, Dec. 18.
"It's more like redrawing the attendance boundaries," he said.
"Housing developments in certain areas have made the populations of some schools swell, and other schools have not, so we're looking at what do we do to make sure we even that out," Knepper continued.
Sidle said the overpopulated schools are running out of classroom space, so a reshuffling will help the class size, staffing and facilities.
Conewago Elementary has the largest enrollment of the four schools, said Director of Operations Brian Geller. That also reflects the electoral shift in the district.
Background: The need to redraw electoral regions was driven by the 2010 federal census, which shows Conewago Township's population has grown significantly since Northeastern's regions were formed in 1967.
The district was formed in 1955 and split into three regions 12 years later.
The school board reported at a Sept. 4 work session that the court approved its petition for redistricting — and the result will be a more uniformly distributed population across three regions.
As it stands now, Region 1 represents 50 percent of the population in the district, and the other two represent 29 percent and 21 percent. But after redistricting, the split will be 34.1 percent, 33.8 percent and 32.1 percent.
The reason for the disparity is that 4,505 residents from Conewago Township's population of 7,510 are in the first region, along with another highly populated township, East Manchester, which has 7,264 residents.
The new Region 3 will represent all of Conewago Township — at 32.1 percent, the smallest slice between the three.
Region 2 will represent Manchester and Mount Wolf boroughs and part of Newberry Township, while Region 1 will represent East Manchester Township and York Haven.
Looking forward: Geller said that even though the elementary school attendance shift is being done for a similar reason, instead of looking back to the census, the district is looking forward with the new study.
It's a complicated process, Sidle said, so the district hired Robert Schoch, a consultant from School Business Intelligence, to look at demographic data, enrollment data from the last five years and busing information.
Schoch, a 36-year public school business administrator, recently completed a redistricting study for Quakertown Community School District, in Bucks County, that resulted in reassigning 600 students to different schools and saved the district $500,000 through more efficient school bus transportation, according to the proposal.
The cost of the study is $18,500, as stated in Nov. 19 meeting minutes.
The firm will "give us projections so that a decision that can be made hopefully can be a longstanding suggestion," Geller said.
Schoch will lead a committee, meeting in January, that will include Sidle, Assistant Superintendent Randi Payne, Knepper and Geller, two people from the district's transportation company and one to two parents from each elementary school.
The process must be completed by late spring to give the community time to adjust to the changes, which will go into effect at the start of the 2019-20 school year, Sidle said.
"I want to make sure that our parents have time to look at day care options if any of that may change for students," she said.