By Philip Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia
Two schools in the northern part of the Peoria Unified School District are projected to reach enrollment capacity by the end of this school year, officials said.
The Governing Board recently approved the creation of a committee that will review information and projections to study the current boundaries of Liberty High School, 9621 W. Speckled Gecko Drive, and Sunset Heights Elementary School, 9687 W. Adam Ave.
The committee could decide that a re-drawing of schools boundaries is needed to balance enrollment and avoid overcrowding. Overcrowding can affect student learning but changing boundaries are often contested.
The committee will begin work in January with recommendations brought back to the Governing Board in April or May. The Board has the final say on any boundary changes.
The current enrollment for Liberty and Sunset Heights are 2,210 and 1,020, respectively.
District Administrator for K-12 Academic Services Steve Savoy said both campuses are nearing capacity, and with home construction continuing to grow in the northern part of the city, student enrollment will reach a tipping point sooner than later.
“We will exceed capacity at Sunset Heights. Next school year, we won’t have enough room, so we need to address overcrowding,” he said. “And Liberty will exceed capacity by end of this school year. We know we will have over crowding at Liberty. But the immediate need is to make adjustments at the elementary school.”
Mr. Savoy cited rising population and the subsequent commercial and residential development in northern Peoria as bigger signs that over-enrollment is eminent.
Over the last 18 months Maracay Homes spent $48 million on parcels totaling 142 acres, with plans to develop 299 home sites located on the northwest corner of Deer Valley Road and 91st Avenue, near the schools. Mr. Savoy said contractors began accepting contracts for the new housing development over Labor Day weekend.
“The (development) in this area will have a significant impact on Sunset Heights,” he said.
But discussion about boundary changes will depend on results of the $198 million school bond Nov. 8. It would fund the construction of an elementary and high school in northern Peoria, among other projects.
Peoria Vice Mayor Bridget Binsbacher, who represents the area, said PUSD is doing its job to look at growth and school capacities.
It is important they conduct the process in the most public way possible as boundaries are always an issue of great interest to the public, she said.
“There is no doubt that my district is growing and many people are choosing to move and retire in northern Peoria … and it is important that we continue to provide and support those amenities and services that our citizens deserve,” she said. “Ultimately, this comes down to everyone doing their job to keep up with this growth and ensure that our residents are being served.”
District spokeswoman Danielle Airey said staff reviews enrollment and capacity on an ongoing basis.
“Part of this review involves projections based on growth and any areas where we expect a decline in enrollment,” she said. “It is necessary to review boundaries as our future projections determine that we will be in a position where enrollment is fluctuating to a point that is not conducive to the educational environment we need for our students.
“It’s all based on facility utilization depending on the school size and programming,” Ms. Airey said.