It's been more than a decade since Bay District Schools looked at school zoning as a whole. Tuesday morning, discussions heated up as the Bay District School Board addressed the issue in a public workshop. The hottest topic, possibly closing the elementary portion of the Dean Bozeman School.
"I think most of the Bozeman parents, we're happy where we are," says one Dean Bozeman parent at the meeting. "We don't want to have to make huge life changes because a few of those people who are zoned over there are not going there."
The issue the District faces is two under-populated schools close by. With Bozeman Elementary being the smallest populated elementary school, Deer Point at only 48 percent capacity, and Southport at 66 percent capacity, Superintendent Bill Husfelt says they need to choose a more efficient solution. Closing Deer Point, however, is not an option because the District is still paying off the bonds.
On top of capacity rate, the number of students counts, as well. According to the District, if an elementary school has less than 400 students, it is not breaking even financially. Bozeman's elementary schools has only 323 students, with 61 empty seats. Deer Point has 454 empty seats and Southport has 187 empty seats.
Husfelt believes closing down the elementary portion of Bozeman and rezoning those students to either Southport or Deer Point is the most efficient decision. With that option, Husfelt says it would save the district about 250 thousand dollars a year and still allow for student growth. On the other hand, closing an entire facility like Southport could save at least half a million.
"We would save more money if we closed Southport," says Husfelt. "But then we wouldn't have as many empty seats for growth that everyone says is coming. So do you want to put yourself in a predicament where you have to build more buildings because you didn't plan for the growth?"
While closing Southport would save more money, it would only allow for 144 seats for any growth between the two other schools. But according to some, future student growth shouldn't be a main concern.
"If we were to close Southport and move Southport to Deer Point, I understand that it would be only 144 empty seats, but if the charter schools continue to pull 50 percent of our population each year, that's going to solve that problem," said one Bozeman faculty member at the workshop.
Husfelt says charter school growth taking students away from non-charter schools leaving under-populated schools. Since 2002, non-charter schools have lost more than 3,000 students to charter schools.
Husfelt will make a final recommendation at the February 12 Board Meeting.
Also discussed at Tuesday's meeting, options for the over crowded schools on the beach. Some of the changes proposed included approving fewer out-of-zone requests for beach elementary schools and possibly adding modular classrooms to Breakfast Point Academy.