Bond issue vote regarding potential expansion of elementary school will take place in November

YORK – A bond issue vote, as to whether or not an expansion project should be undertaken at the York Elementary School, will take place in November’s General Election.

York Superintendent Mitch Bartholomew said during this past week’s community sector briefing the school board is making progress in these early stages of formulating a potential project. He said an architectural firm has been contracted, as has a construction management team, which will help in formulating the details for the proposed project.

“Both firms have great experience in these types of projects and in adding on to elementary schools,” Bartholomew said. “We have also put together a committee made up of community members and that group has met twice. We have had great conversations with great ideas so far.

“The school board chose to not put this to vote in May but rather in November, which I think is smart in order for everyone to have more time and we can have more accurate estimations and details regarding the scope of the project. Most importantly, more time will provide more community education. There will be some public events in the summer and most certainly there will be numerous public educational events in the fall, regarding this potential project. The public has questions and we want to have the most detailed, accurate information available to everyone.”

As Bartholomew said in earlier interview with JMW.com, there is a great need for more room at the schools, as the elementary population has steadily risen over the years, with a significant surge two years ago (when they had to go to six sections of Kindergarten with each have more than 20 kids in each). There is also a significant need to have one location for early childhood education (pre-school).

Bartholomew said this need has been a point of discussion for the school board for 5-7 years now.

Bartholomew said the jump in elementary school population is due to several factors, including how more young families with kids are moving into the district and more young families are having more children in the York District (although that isn’t the statewide trend). He said they have also seen significant growth in some of their specialty programs – one example is their special education program, “which is a strong program at YPS and we’ve had families move to York because they want their student in that program.

“When that building was constructed, back in 1993, it was built for far less classrooms per grade level with a small handful of extra rooms,” Dr. Bartholomew explained. “It was also designed for what education looked like in the 1990s.”

As an example, schools in the 1990s had a specific room classified as a computer lab, which isn’t the case today.

“The handful of extra rooms are now classrooms,” in order to accommodate the much larger number of kids.

“Another aspect is that over the last 10 years, there has been a huge focus on pre-schools/early childhood education, which we are very supportive of,” Bartholomew said in that earlier interview. “Early childhood programs can help identify students who may have learning struggles – we have support for them. And it’s also great for kids without learning struggles, as they are getting a jump start when it comes to reading, social skills, etc. For years, the school board has been looking to put all the preschool students in one building – right now, we have them in three different locations – we have one group at the high school; we rent the old dialysis center at the West View Medical Center; and we also have a section in York Elementary itself.”

He said the school board’s “number one goal, if the project would move forward, is to increase overall square footage as even the existing classrooms now are too small. And there are truly only two restroom areas in that entire facility.”

The increase in student enrollment at York Elementary has been considerable, according to population figures provided by Bartholomew: 1999-2000 school year, 447 kids; 2003-2004 school year, 482 kids; 2009-2010 school year, 490 students; 2017-2018 school year, 537; and 2023-2004 school year, 599 students. These figures don’t include any preschoolers.

The growth in the number of elementary-aged students has been so much the district, at this time, cannot accept any option-in students at the elementary level. Option-in students are kids who live outside the district but would like to attend school here. Option-in students can attend the York Middle School and the York High School, because there is room in those facilities – just not at the elementary school, at this time.

“Someone from the public put it perfectly when they said we want to provide for the immediate needs now while also providing for the needs of the future,” the superintendent said further. “We want to make sure we are prepared for elementary education in the years to come as well, while addressing immediate needs.”

 

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