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Redistricting May Be An Option in Face of Growing Classroom Sizes at North Penn

Tony Di Domizio

Thursday, August 14, 2014 • 10:00pm

What’s a school district to do when its elementary school with the largest enrollment is bursting at the seams?

At this juncture, nothing drastic districtwide. Instead, administrators are, at present, scrutinizing enrollment – and disenrollment – numbers and unique needs at Knapp Elementary School on Knapp Road in Lansdale Borough.

A decision is forthcoming from Superintendent Dr. Curt Dietrich on whether another teacher and classroom are needed at the 662-student school to accommodate, as of Tuesday, 87 sixth-graders in three rooms in a modular unit.

Dietrich was asked after Tuesday night’s North Penn Board of School Directors session how the district plans to handle future population growth in the region. He said renovations are on track for one school per year, across 13 schools.

Then, he discussed the other “R” word.

“We’re really going to take a hard look at redistricting and perhaps moving boundary lines,” he said, “which we’ve done before. We’ll be able to accommodate growth.”

The last redistricting was in September 2013, wherein all students attending North Wales and Gwyn-Nor elementaries were moved to Pennbrook Middle School, according to The Reporter. The change affected 48 elementary students who had resided in the Penndale Middle School boundary near Morris, North Wales and Welsh roads.

Gone are the days when Montgomery Elementary on Stump Road in Montgomery Township was the elementary school with the largest enrollment.

“We see Montgomery Elementary, for example, getting smaller in size, in terms of enrollment,” Dietrich said. “At one time, it was the largest. Now, Knapp is the largest. Maybe we need to make adjustments in boundaries.”

If redistricting comes to fruition, then, Dietrich said, it would likely affect the 2015-16 school year.

However, board President Vince Sherpinsky said via email that changing school boundaries, at this point, is not being considered by the board.

“Redistricting occurs on small scales to deal with unanticipated situations,” he said. “This has occurred a few times over the last two to three years.”

Sherpinsky said while redistricting has not been discussed, it may be something the administration would look at when “enrollment hotspots” become a pattern in North Penn.

Knapp Home & School Association President Gwen Pescatore, of Montgomery Township, is a proponent of redistricting, should it come to be.

“I understand how emotional (it) can be for students and families to be moved to a new school, but we cannot continue to put children in overcrowded classrooms,” Pescatore said via email. “For schools like Knapp, that continue to grow and have no more available space, you end up with few options.”

Pescatore wrote that finding district buildings with decreasing populations or extra space seems like “common sense.”

“And in the best interest of all North Penn students,” she wrote.

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