With enrollment on rise, Webster Groves schools look for ways to make room

WEBSTER GROVES • School officials here are considering options that include converting Steger 6th Grade Center into an elementary school, redrawing attendance boundaries and increasing class sizes to address crowding.

The district is weighing <a href="http://nie.post-dispatch.com/%3Ca%20href%3D"http://www.dejongrichter.com/fbisd/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2018/10/Webster_Groves_BD_20181022_FINAL.pdf"">http://www.dejongrichter.com/fbisd/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2018/10/W... target="_blank">six preliminary proposals</a> and seeking feedback from parents and other community members before narrowing the options down next month. The school board will make a final decision in January.

The district has seen enrollment increase by about 360 students over the last 10 years, Superintendent John Simpson said. Officials expect that trend to continue, causing crowding at each of its six elementary schools, Hixson Middle School and Steger.

The elementary schools already have 83 more students than spaces. Three elementary schools have used trailers to accommodate overflow since 2013. Officials expect a total student elementary school enrollment of 2,227 by 2022, nearly 200 more students than the schools have seats.

Most of the proposals would ensure that students won’t have to change schools before they normally would.

Option 1 would increase all class sizes by three students at every grade level. The proposal could require boundary changes to steer students away from Edgar Road Elementary, which will still experience a slight overflow, and will mean cuts to teaching positions. The plan would take effect next school year.

Option 2 would add eight classrooms at Edgar Road Elementary and six at Clark Elementary. The construction would cost about $7 million and require passage of a bond issue, in addition to redistricting.

Option 3 would add 15 classrooms to Hudson Elementary and create an elementary magnet school program on the same campus to lure students from across the district. The construction costs would total about $9 million and require passage of a bond issue, but no boundary changes would be necessary.

Option 4 has three versions. All three would use the Steger building to house elementary school students and send the sixth-graders to Hixson Middle School, but they vary in their use of the adjacent Givens Elementary School.

One of the versions would send all the district’s fifth-graders to Steger, though it might allow the adjacent Givens Elementary to remain a K-5 school. A second variation would convert Steger into a K-5 elementary school with a capacity of 396 students. It would require the most extensive redistricting of all the options.

Any version of Option 4 would require approval of either Option 5 or Option 6, so that the sixth-grade students currently at Steger could be sent to Hixson .

Option 5, which has the highest price tag, would build an addition to Hixson costing about $15 million, meaning the district could ask for a tax increase.

Option 6 would move eighth-graders currently at Hixson to Webster Groves High School and use existing space there to provide 18 more classrooms to accommodate them.

Officials will <a href="http://nie.post-dispatch.com/%3Ca%20href%3D"https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WGSDEnrollmentSpaceNeeds"">https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WGSDEnrollmentSpaceNeeds" target="_blank">present information</a> about the six proposals at two open house sessions Thursday at the district’s administrative building at 3232 South Brentwood Boulevard. The first open house is from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and the second from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m