Rapid student enrollment projected for Wayzata School District

Updated: August 26, 2019 06:00 PM

The Wayzata School District is expected to see a surge of students in the upcoming five years.

Hazel Reinhardt, a statewide demographer, updated student enrollment projections that outlined growth in a number of areas, and the numbers mean the school district needs to come up with solutions quickly.

Resident student enrollment is projected to increase by nearly 2,000 students in the next five years. That's on top of an 18 percent increase, which saw almost 1,800 more students enroll in the school district over the past five years.

"We plan and we study and we kind of figure out how many students we are expecting, and in all those cases we've exceeded, so it's come faster," said Kristin Tollison, Wayzata Public Schools director of administrative services. "We can see them in our new kindergarten class, we'll have 975 new kindergarteners. And we know in a few years we will have them in middle school."

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Central Middle School will experience the largest student body influx in the upcoming years.

"In the next five years, growth at Central Middle School will be astounding, growing from 1,320 to 1,869 students," Reinhardt said.

Capacity at Central Middle School is just over 1,600 students, so this 42 percent growth will clearly pose space challenges that will need to be addressed.

"Our goal is always to maintain the class size," Tollison said. "We have to get creative with scheduling, we have to get creative with spaces."

If the goal is to keep the class sizes small, something else will have to give. But parents and guardians don't need to worry quite yet about higher taxes for new buildings, although that is still one idea.

"So we will have to look at some possibilities, do we choose to not have feeder schools? Do we choose to add onto one or more middle schools? Do we need another facility? And so those will be our next steps, those are the things we will have to wrestle with  … regardless of our choices, the kids will come," Tollison said.

If the district puts out a referendum to handle the student body growth, that could mean higher taxes, but not necessarily. 

"The good news for us is that our tax base is growing so rapidly that it is spread over more people," Tollison said.

Whatever the change may be, the conversations need to happen soon.

"We need to start thinking as a community in the next six to 18 months about what our next steps are, so that when we hit that crunch time in 2023, we have space and we're ready to take care of kiddos," Tollison said.

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Crystal Bui

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