By Heather Mullinix
A report showing extra space at Cumberland County elementary schools was called "misleading" by a member of the Cumberland County Board of Education because the report did not use actual school enrollments.
"This report is kind of misleading," said Josh Stone, 4th District representative, during the Feb. 28 meeting of the board. "We don't need to look at membership if it takes attendance into consideration. We have to have room for the kids whether they come to school or not."
And while a board committee has recommended prioritizing additions at schools to get rid of portable classrooms, Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle cautioned the board to give the matter considerable study and thought.
The report was prepared by Vivian Hutson, 6th District representative, and used the average daily membership (ADM) number reported by the state of Tennessee. ADM is a formula that helps to determine funding for the school system and uses the number of students in attendance each day.
Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle said, "ADM does not reflect an accurate number of students we serve."
For example, the 2012 state report card shows Cumberland County with an ADM of 6,999 students, and the state's funding formula uses the average daily membership, not actual enrollment. Actual enrollment, however, not including pre-kindergarten, was 7,299 students. When pre-kindergarten is included, the number is 7,529 students.
Hutson's report also showed a decrease in ADM of 194 students from the 2010-'11 school year to the 2012-'13 school year in kindergarten through eighth grade. Actual head counts for those years, the head count decreased by 93 students. Since the 2006-'07 school year, student enrollment in that population has decreased by 141 students, and 161 students when pre-kindergarten and high school populations are included.
The numbers used in the school system's head count reflect the enrollment in each school the day after Labor Day from 2006-'07 to 2012-'13.
At Brown Elementary, 478 students are enrolled this school year in grades kindergarten through eighth, and the capacity is 665 students. The school's total enrollment increases to 498 when the pre-kindergarten students are counted.
At Homestead, the enrollment this school year was 667 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade, with a total student body of 720 students. Capacity for the school was listed as 780 students without using portable classrooms. The school has three classes and a daycare program using portable classrooms.
At Crab Orchard, the head count is 419 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and 437 when including pre-kindergarten. The school has a capacity of 470 students without using portables. There are two portables at the school, one housing the pre-kindergarten class and one housing the teen living class.
At Martin, there are 700 students in kindergarten through eighth grade and a total enrollment of 755 students. The school has a capacity of 770 students with no portable classrooms in use.
North Cumberland Elementary has seven portable classrooms. It's capacity without portables is 620 students. There are 650 students enrolled in grades kindergarten through eighth grade and a total enrollment of 670 students.
Pine View Elementary has an enrollment of 191 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and a total enrollment of 211 students. The school has no portable classrooms and a capacity of 350 students.
At Pleasant Hill, there are 540 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade and a total enrollment of 561 students. The school has a capacity of 700 students.
South Cumberland Elementary has seven portable classrooms in use and a school capacity of 620 students. This year there are 672 students enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade and a total enrollment of 707 students.
There are 655 students enrolled in Stone Elementary in kindergarten through eighth grade, with a total enrollment of 686 students. The school has a capacity of 665 students, with no portable classrooms in use.
Hutson's report also included data from the Tennessee Department of Health Division of Health Statistics that showed the county would see a growth of 130 children ages 4 to 14 from 2012 to 2020.
"Based on this data, the building and grounds committee feels we need to bring our current buildings up to par for those that need to get rid of portables for present and anticipated enrollment through 2020," she told the board. "Additions should provide space needed through 2020."
VanWinkle said at one time, studies had shown schools with more than 725 students were not as effective as those with lower enrollments.
"If you want to look at expanding our schools and making them larger, we need to study what is more effective," VanWinkle told the board. "Do you want 900 kids in an elementary school?"
Gordon Davis, 5th District representative, said, "The smaller the school, the better students learn."
Hutson said she wasn't proposing changing the size of the schools.
"This would just make a place for these students to be other than in the portables," Hutson said. "I'm saying build on and get rid of the portables. The enrollment is the same. No school is at capacity. We need wings for those kids that are in portables already."
The school capacity anticipates using every classroom as classroom space to its maximum efficiency. Due to limitations on class size and where the student population falls, schools may need additional classes to accommodate its enrollment, even though the classes aren't at capacity. Schools also use additional space to offer programs such as pre-kindergarten and Career and Technical Education classes, including Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Teen Living and Agriculture.
"Capacity does not count space for CTE or computer labs or music or anything special," said Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative.
VanWinkle said, "For what you could spend building wings on these schools, you could have an elementary school."
A recent addition at Pleasant Hill Elementary cost $1.6 million and an addition to Pine View Elementary cost $1.3 million.
Hutson said a new school could cost more than $13 million and would include additional costs for faculty and bus routes.
David Bowman, 7th District representative, said, "We need to fix the schools we've got instead of building new schools and we need to look at what we've got before we start building new schools."
He pointed to facility needs at North Cumberland where the roof had several leaks and he said the mortar between the bricks needed to be replaced.
VanWinkle said North Cumberland was scheduled for a new roof and sealing this year, with South Cumberland on the schedule for next year.
VanWinkle recommended the board set a series of work sessions on the subject in the future.