The Jefferson City School District pressed pause on its plans to deal with overcrowding this month in light of downward-trending enrollment as well as the current boundary line process, which interim Chief of Operations Dawn Berhorst said could deal with "pockets" of overcrowding.
However, balancing capacity constraints with the difficulty of moving students, who face leaving friends, sports and classes, makes it challenging.
Many of the proposed boundary line changes shift children to the east because growth is happening on the west side of the city.
Thomas Jefferson Middle School enrollment stood at 1,050 for the 2021-22 school year, while its capacity is at 972, according to data presented by Cooperative Strategies, a group that is working with the district's boundary committee to redraw lines. And while all four of the proposed scenarios for changes in boundary lines lower the percentage at TJMS, all four scenarios as they stood Tuesday leave one of the two middle schools over capacity.
"It's very hard to perfectly balance these (middle schools)," without splitting up neighborhoods, Berhorst said.
Karen Daniel-Hamberg, of Cooperative Strategies, said the middle schools are currently being used overall at 99 percent.
"So, should a big class come through, in one grade, it's going to upset it a little bit.," she said. "That's just because the space constraints of the middle school." But when you look at grades advancing, such as fifth-graders to sixth grade and eighth-graders to ninth grade, Daniel-Hamberg said, the numbers normalize.
"It's going to be like that until you get more middle school space," Daniel- Hamberg said.
According to the boundary line background data, the current attendance areas put 867 students at Lewis and Clark Middle School (89 percent of capacity) and TJMS is at 1,050 (108 percent), leaving a 183-student deficit.
Those capacities do not include trailers, Superintendent Larry Linthacum said.
That is also the case for planning scenarios.
"We did that very purposefully so that we weren't accidentally filling a trailer. We didn't want to even have that possibility," Daniel-Hamberg said.
"Part of what we're trying to do is get kids out of trailers as much as possible," Daniel-Hamberg said.
Nine of the 13 K-8 buildings have trailers currently, including both middle schools, Linthacum said.
Daniel-Hamberg said Belair is one school that is currently overcrowded. It is at 100 percent capacity and has a trailer.
She said many of the changes reflect a need to shift children to the east because the growth is happening on the west side of Jefferson City. Capital City is another school she said is crowded.
Linthacum said CCHS is not overcrowded and is below capacity.
"We're still below capacity, but there are more kids here than Jeff City," he said. "We're trying to look at boundary lines to try to get that potentially closer to being the same."
Daniel-Hamberg said the nuances of high school capacity in an interview.
"The capacity at the high school is odd because you have to take into account AP classes maybe have 12 kids. A classroom can fit 30 kids in it but you're going to have classes (that) can't have as many kids because of the program," she said.
The current imbalance between schools is 228 students. Jefferson City High School has a higher capacity, but a lower number of students than Capital City High School currently.
While capacity and balancing the number of students is one consideration for the boundary committee, it also must take into account minimizing disruption of student learning, keeping siblings together, balancing socio-economic relationships in schools, maintaining cost- effective transportation, maintaining feeder patterns, following natural boundaries and keeping neighborhoods together.
The boundary committee will meet in December to go over the feedback surveys it received from community members. The number of responses as of Tuesday was 337.