While many of the elementary school buildings in Eastern Carver County Schools are roughly 15-20% under student capacity, others, most notably Carver Elementary School are at capacity or very close.
On May 24, District 112 school board members will be asked to approve a $9 million addition to Carver Elementary that could be ready for students at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.
Carver Elementary has around 700 students. New capacity standards increased the limit from 700 to 750. That higher number is expected to be reached in 2022-23. A long-range projection has Carver Elementary reaching as many as 810 kids in the next decade.
“We talk about Carver Elementary and how that school in particular is growing. It comes as no surprise if you’ve been out by Carver, there’s a lot of development going on,” said DeeDee Kahring, director of finance and operation for District 112. “We knew when we built this school there was ample property, farm land, that is being sold. We have another development that is in the approval process. I believe there is 250 to 300 homes going into that area.”
An estimate of 0.6 students per household is used when looking at new development.
“There is pressure on this school,” Kahring said.
An addition would increase the square footage by 19,000, totaling 130,000. Capacity would increase to 900 students, setting up the school for additional community growth.
Funding would be completed through a lease levy authority. The district would issue certificates of participation, much like a homeowner would borrow money from a financial institution.
Kahring said the district would make those payments through a levy increase beginning with 2022 payable taxes. This option, used in the past with an addition on Chaska Middle School East, is available when a district adds to a building’s footprint by 20% or less.
Kahring shared a potential timeline with schematics and designs completed by the fall with a shell and enclosure worked on between February and May 2022. An interior build-out would come in April to August 2022.
An increase in class sizes at the elementary level — from 20 to 22 in kindergarten and 25.5 to 27 in grades one through five — shows Eastern Carver County Schools overall are in good shape.
Bluff Creek Elementary in Chanhassen is 80% full with Chanhassen Elementary sitting at 76%. Clover Ridge Elementary in Chaska, with a recent addition in 2015, rests at 81% capacity, while Jonathan Elementary is 84% full.
La Academia, which also houses Kinder Academy, is at 100% capacity. Interest in the multilingual program exceeds capacity limits at the former Chaska Elementary building. Kahring said the district has the ability to place a cap on enrollment, creating a wait list in the near future.
The western part of the school district is where substantial growth is happening. While Carver Elementary has reached capacity already, Victoria Elementary, even with a recent addition, is nearing that mark.
Currently, the school is 93% full with capacity projections hitting 100% in 2022-23. In three years the building is expected to have more than 800 students.
The district continues to explore options including a new building in the Big Woods area off Highway 212 northwest of downtown Chaska as well as a rebuild of Chanhassen Elementary.
For now, the district will focus on the addition at Carver Elementary and the potential closure of East Union Elementary.
Currently, the East Union building houses 120 students with a capacity of 150. That number is expected to decrease to 105 next year, with the two largest grade sizes in fourth and fifth grade.
“When we were looking at budget cuts last year, the East Union building was listed on there for this year closure,” Kahring said.
East Union, built in 1963, has an operating cost of $563,000 with a deferred maintenance cost of $5.7 million. Kahring said a task force will review the school’s boundary in the fall with the board asked to adopt new boundary plans in January 2022.
A potential closure of East Union could be set for the end of the 2021-22 school year.