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SPS considers Pershing, Robberson changes in response to report

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As Springfield experiences population growth, signs point to a flattening of the student population in Springfield Public Schools over the next decade. School site changes are being considered in response.

The current count of 24,132 students is expected to drop to 23,853 in 10 years’ time in a district where many school buildings are already underutilized, according to a demographic study presented to the SPS Board of Education last night. For some buildings in the district, increases are projected, while others will see utilization rates plummet with the changing student population.

The projections were prepared by Davis Demographics, a division of Tampa, Florida-based MGT of America Consulting LLC. The company uses geographic information system data to forecast enrollment trends so that school districts can engage in strategic planning, according to its website. SPS paid $79,000 for the study, officials say.

In a presentation to the board, Davis Demographics Senior Project Manager Lorne Woods described the report as a weather map of the student population.

“We know there’s a lot of kids, but they’re not everywhere – they’re condensed in certain areas within the district,” he said.

With each student geocoded, Woods said the firm mapped out the population of the district with color variations indicating high-density and low-density areas=.

The demographic study is the district’s first since 2008, according to Travis Shaw, deputy superintendent of operations for SPS.

“It’s been well overdue, especially with a district of our size and just given the trends through enrollment,” he said in an interview prior to the school board meeting.

Shaw said the study came about through conversations surrounding the work of the district’s Community Task Force on Facilities, which, in part, considered the boundaries of each school and how shifting them could increase schools’ efficiencies.

“They really needed some additional information around what trends we were seeing, what was the future of the district looking like, what do we potentially expect from enrollment and the population as it would move through different boundaries,” he said.

At the request of the task force, the report looks at changes to two sites in particular: Pershing K-8 School and Robberson Community School, which serves K-5.

For Robberson in the city’s northeast, the study considers four options, two involving closures and two involving expansions. The first closure plan would divide students between Bowerman and Freemont elementaries, while the second would assign all Robberson students to Boyd Elementary.

The expansion plans would either move the school to the east to absorb 105 students from Fremont Elementary or move it to the north to absorb some students from Truman, Watkins and Fremont elementaries.

For Pershing, the facilities task force has proposed changing the southeast Springfield building from a K-8 school to a middle school for sixth-eighth grades.

The study offers three options for removing elementary students from the school: Divide K-5 students between Field and Wilder elementaries; send all Pershing K-5 students to Pittman Elementary; and assign the entire Pershing area to Wilder Elementary for K-5, with parts of Wilder’s population being reassigned to Sequiota Elementary.

Population projections for each of the schools are available on the SPS website. The board will discuss options for the buildings in upcoming meetings.

Read more about the SPS demographic report in the Dec. 4 issue of Springfield Business Journal.

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