The Looming Classroom Shortage

Housing Growth Teaches WCASD a Lesson in Planning

In case you missed it, this January the West Chester Area School district released its Capital Plan, or its 20 year look into the future, and it’s foreseeing a shortage of classrooms.

West Chester, PA needs more classroom space for elementary students.

According to the report, 7 out of 10 our elementary schools in the district are already using some type of temporary classroom space (either modules or diverted space) and thanks to a spike in housing starts elementary enrollment is only expected to increase over the next 5-10 years. (Middle and high school enrollment is also expected to increase but as of right now the district is not planning to have to increase classroom space.)

Hey, new and expectant parents pay attention, peak enrollment is expected to hit elementary schools in 2025. The year most of today’s newborns will be starting first grade.

According to the report:

  • The district will see an 8 percent growth in housing in the next 5-10 years
  • 2798 new housing are currently under review or construction – including 87 new single family homes in the borough
  • Development will lead enrollment of elementary students to increase by 10%, middle school students by 12% and high school students by 15%
  • 8 out of the 10 district elementary schools will need a minimum of 2 additional classrooms
IMG_6582
West Chester class of 2036.

Where will they all go?

The district is not without a plan, or three, and an empty lot itching for construction:

Plan one: Close the existing Mary C. House elementary school, open a new bigger MCH and add 22 classrooms at 6 area schools. Note: with capacity for 850 students the new MCH would be the largest elementary school in the district.

Plan two: Add 37 new classrooms at existing schools. This plan would affect 8 out of 10 elementary schools. Note: New classrooms means construction. Check the plan if you want to see when your school may be under construction.

Plan three: Add 16 new classrooms at 5 existing elementary schools and a new 500 student school.

Tell me more about this empty lot

According to the Daily Local, 14 years ago the school district purchased the lot behind the Wawa at Route 100 and Greenhill Road. They refer to this site as “Henderson North” and this is where the new school, if plan 1 or 3 is approved, will be built.

And how much will this cost?

Under any of the plans costs to taxpayers are nominal – with increases ranging from $6.50 to $6.95/year.

What’s the Superintendent have to say?

WCASD is a firm believer in keeping class sizes small and schools sizes modest.

They are planning for growth based on current data. They do not want to over commit to building projects to house growth that may not happen. At the same time, a new school takes three years to build while new homes can go up in six months so some estimating is necessary.

They are sensitive to redistricting and are committed to keeping the feeder system in place even if slight redistricting is necessary. Note: Redistricting is most likely to affect those in the Northern part of the district where most of the growth is happening.

What’s Next

WCASD was scheduled to make its recommendation – they like plan 3 – at the February school board meeting. The school board will vote on this recommendation sometime in the spring. Take note of their meeting times if you have something you’d like to say.

Curious where some of this growth might be happening? Check out our report. 

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