Peoria Unified: 2 elementary schools at capacity

By Philip Haldiman
Independent Newsmedia

Peoria Unified School District continues to experience  student growth in the northern part of the city.

The district has closed open enrollment at two elementary schools — Vistancia, 30009 N. Sunrise Point, and Sunset Heights, 9687 W. Adam Ave.

Open enrollment is still available at the rest of the district’s more than 30 schools.

Vistancia’s projected enrollment for the 2019-20 school year is 1,165 and the district-set capacity is 1,200. Sunset Height’s projected enrollment is 983 and the district-set capacity is 950.

Parents with children in grades K-12 have the option to choose any school in the district as long as it is not closed to enrollment. Otherwise the student must attend the school assigned to him or her geographically.

School officials said classroom capacity is set at a baseline of 30 students, but schools can accept open enrollment for up to 35 students per classroom or more depending on other factors.

At least one of Peoria Unified’s seven high schools are at capacity, according to district enrollment numbers. The district has set its high schools’ capacity at 2,100 students. Based on this threshold, Liberty High School is over capacity with 2,304 students. Nearing capacity are Sunrise Mountain at 2,053; Ironwood at 2,029: and Centennial at 2,026.

Deputy Superintendent Steve Savoy said the 2,100 number reflects the threshold to which high schools can offer the most flexibility and academic rigor the district wants to offer as well as choices for students.

“Sometimes you get way below that number and you are challenged because you don’t have enough students and sections to offer what you want, and if you get too high above that  number (overcrowding can occur),” he said.

However, President Monica Ceja Martinez said 2,100 is being used as a guidepost but is not truly an indicator that some school sites are over capacity.

“While we are calculating 30, district policy recommends 35. We have more room to add students if we did the calculating with 35 students. So I want to communicate that to the community, that we are not over capacity at Liberty. We do have more room,” she said.

Every year by the first Friday in February, the district must estimate how much excess capacity at each school may exist to accept transfer students based on a number of factors, according to district policy.

However, just because a school is considered to be at capacity, does not mean it cannot accept new students from outside a school’s boundary.

“It depends on the special programming and configuration of rooms on that campus, plus the maximum capacity. There may be some grade levels at some schools that reach capacity and cannot accept new students,” Mr. Savoy said.

Maximum capacity at high schools is 2,340.

Mr. Savoy said this number is reached by taking the number of classrooms and multiplying by 30 students per classroom.

“That means every classroom is used every period,” Mr. Savoy said. “Liberty has done a good job of that. They monitor their sophomore, junior and senior classes. You pretty much know what those numbers are and then you have to make a decision at the freshman level, if you take students or not. And you manage that number based on the other three classes to stay below that number.”

Governing board member David Sandoval said when looking at these numbers it needs to be understood that every site has a story.

“I think we need to certainly understand and have conversations with those sites to make sure we are considering other factors  and variables to make sure we are putting every student every day,” he said. “We also need to take a look at these numbers and the fact that we have growth and are sought out by students that are living outside the boundaries of a site or outside of our district as a whole. We are in the business of developing our future and our youth, and as we take a look at these numbers and as we continue to adapt and accommodate those numbers, we need to take consideration on how we also grow and adapt our capacity as a district.”

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