KNIGHTDALE — The Knightdale Area Education Workgroup has two meetings left, but when the group is finished there might be one issue left unresolved:
If the group can get more students to stay in Knightdale, the area schools may not have the room to take them all back.
Community members and staff from Wake County public schools agreed early that one of their goals was to try to get more students to stay at the town’s six schools.
“That would be a nice problem to have for a change,” District 1 school board representative Tom Benton said. “If we got to the point that we were concernedabout too many (students) coming back instead of too many leaving, I would consider that to be a measure of our success.”
According to student assignment data presented at the group’s first meeting, three elementary schools in the town are considered overcrowded. Lockhart Elementary is just above full capacity.
East Wake Middle School and Knightdale High School are under capacity, but if those schools had to support every student assigned to them, they would be considered overcrowded.
If Knightdale students stuck strictly to their assignment, Forestville and Knightdale elementary schools would be under capacity. Lockhart and Hodge Road elementary schools would be over capacity.
The same holds true for East Wake Middle and Knightdale High.
It’s an unlikely situation that all students will return to their base school, but Benton said that if even about half of the students assigned to Knightdale schools return to their base school, some schools may not be prepared.
“If we started having all of those students come back ... we could probably handle about 50 percent of them coming back without having to reassign those students,” Benton said.
Help from bond issue
Some of the overcrowding can be offset by the schools bond referendum approvedin October, Benton said.
He said in schools that are over capacity, physical space is usually a bigger issue than resources.
“(Overcrowding) does not lead to classes being larger,” Benton said. “Schools get teachers allocated based on the number of students they have.”
The $810 million bond package is one of Wake County’s largest and will help pay for the construction of 16 new schools, six renovation projects and various repairs at 79 other schools.
The bond package has a new middle school planned just northwest of Knightdale. It also has plans for a new elementary school in the same area, close to Rolesville.
Bonds are also meant to pay for about $4 million worth of renovations at East Wake Middle, including an addition to account for more students.
“The whole reason behind the bond (package) is to provide seats for anticipated growth and try to reduce the number of students in mobile units,” Benton said. He said projects identified for construction with bonds sold from the October package will not reduce the total percentage of students in mobile units but it “hopefully will not let the problem become worse.”
Benton said beyond creating more space with construction projects, the county may have to look at student assignment policies as well to avoid overcrowding.
More space than other schools
But overcrowding isn’t as bad in Knightdale as it is in other areas.
Benton said eastern Wake County is the only region in the county with a surplus of space in schools. In other parts of the county, some schools’ enrollment has been capped, meaning they can’t take on any more students.
For the 2013-2014 school year, 13 elementary schools and five high schools have been capped. None are in eastern Wake County.
According to assignment data the workgroup saw, East Wake Middle School has open seats. Right now, the school is at 92.2 percent capacity with 928 students.
With 1,680 students at Knightdale High School, the school is only at 83.5 percent capacity.
Benton said the space available at schools is something the workgroup should consider while they discuss how best to solve Knightdale schools’ problems, but there may not be much the group can do.
Knightdale’s workgroup will not directly address issues of school capacity.
Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews