January 17, 2019
Good Evening St. Francis School Parents and Guardians,
In a previous message, I explained the multi-phase approach to our Facilities Master Plan. The first phase adds two new Kindergarten classrooms and expands the Preschool/Pre-K Program from three to five classrooms as well as renovate the existing Preschool/Pre-K playground area. This week, in my message to you, I would like to address a question that is often asked of me -
Why start with Preschool/Pre-K? Wouldn't a multi-purpose building better serve the needs of the school?
A few years ago, I would have said yes, but my perspective has changed. Here's why.
The primary reason is that we need to expand our Preschool/Pre-K Program to address a critical enrollment issue - we're turning away a large number of prospective families and limiting our ability to grow enrollment. As of Monday, January 14, Preschool enrollment is at maximum capacity. This is good news because Preschool is full for the 2019/2020 school year. However, it's filled with siblings from current families leaving no space for any new applicants who have been placed on a waitlist. By June of last year, we turned away over 40 Preschool and Pre-K students. We anticipate having to do the same this year.
How did we get to this point? When the school opened in 1998, Pre-K was full with 60 students, 20 students in each of the three classrooms. There was no Preschool. Sixty Pre-K students fed two Kindergarten classrooms with 30 students in each room. This laid the foundation for all grades being at full capacity (30 students per room) through 8th grade. During the first seven years the school was open, enrollment grew to 585, near maximum capacity of 600 students. The school had a budget surplus with only modest tuition increases.
Due to various factors, the most notable being the recession that began in 2007, Pre-K enrollment dipped to 27 in 2010/2011. Over the years, declining Pre-K enrollment created empty seats in all grades, causing total school enrollment to drop to 411 in 2011/2012. These were difficult times for the school. Enrollment dropped significantly over a four year period. Budget surpluses were replaced by deficits leading to reductions in support staff. This was not a sustainable model.
In order to increase enrollment, school administration came up with a plan to convert one Pre-K classroom to a Preschool classroom. In the fall of 2011, the school welcomed 10 Preschool students to compliment the 22 Pre-K students. Over the following seven years, Preschool enrollment grew quickly. Since 2013/2014 Preschool and Pre-K enrollment has been at maximum capacity with a waitlist and
now we may have to turn away a sibling
Next week, I will talk about how opening a Preschool impacted K - 8th grade enrollment and how Phase 1 will address this challenge.