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At capacity: West De Pere has zero open enrollment openings

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – When open enrollment started Feb. 3, the West De Pere school district found itself in the familiar position of having no openings for general or special education.

“We are over or at capacity in all areas, K-12,” said Dennis Krueger, West De Pere school district superintendent.

Four-year-old kindergarten, while also at or near capacity, is slightly different because it’s not mandatory, and some 4K sites are located off school grounds.

But being at or over capacity with no openings isn’t a new situation in West De Pere.

“For the past five or six years, that’s been the case; there’s no space for enrollment in open enrollment,” Krueger said.

The district, with the help of a committee of parents and community members, plus meetings with municipal planners and consultants, took a look at population projections and housing developments underway or about to be underway, and did creative juggling.

Among the information shared at the Jan. 27 meeting of the West De Pere school board:

• The West De Pere school district can expect an increase of 1,145 K-12 students by 2030.

• Of that 1,145 students, 530 will be from the Town of Lawrence.

• 437 of the 530 students from Lawrence will live in the Hemlock Creek Elementary School attendance area.

• Westwood Elementary School’s population will remain generally steady.

When it opens in fall of 2021, the new West De Pere intermediate school, for fifth and sixth grade, will create space in both Hemlock Creek and Westwood, both of which currently house students through fifth grade, Krueger said.

If the district doesn’t address the boundary issue, Hemlock Creek will become overcrowded again, because the majority of growth is happening in that school’s attendance area.

In response, administrators redrew boundaries and removed streets out of the attendance area for Hemlock and moved them in the attendance area for Westwood.

The new boundaries won’t impact any current families, Krueger said.

“We’re trying to balance growth at future buildings, so they reach capacities at relatively the same time, trying our best, that’s why we redrew the boundaries,” he said.

According to the De Pere School District and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, openings in a school, grade, class or program is determined by considering class size limits, student-to-teacher ratios, the number of students from outside the school district who are already attending through open enrollment; and future enrollment forecasts.

Space and availability are determined each January.

The period for open enrollment is the first Monday in February through the last week day in April for the following school year.

But if there’s no space, there’s no space.

“People who live in other school districts can still apply for open enrollment, but they will be denied, because of space,” Krueger said.

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