PENINSULA — Overcrowding at Hilltop Middle School won’t be an issue come next school year.
At its Jan. 23 meeting, the Ocean Beach School District Board of Directors decided the district will be reconfigured as a “feeder school” model. In this model, students travel through the district together by grade level through graduation.
The reconfiguration will take place this summer before the 2019-20 school year begins.
Pre-K through grade 2 will be at Long Beach Elementary; grades 3-5 at Ocean Park Elementary; grades 6-8 at Hilltop Middle School; and grades 9-12 at Ilwaco High School. The Boys and Girls Club will stay at IHS.
“I feel strongly that it will be a winning plan for the students in the school district,” said Village Club President Bonnie Lou Cozby. “It allows for best use of facilities, team teaching options and builds relationships between students that will be helpful in eliminating the current North Kids vs. South Kids tension.”
The model is one of four options the school district presented to the community for input. After hearing from the community and working with a committee of 14 district employees led by Incoming Superintendent Amy Huntley, Interim Superintendent Scott Fenter recommended the board choose the feeder school model.
“I didn’t anticipate a decision as big as this as Interim,” Fenter said. “If there was an easy decision, trust me, I would have jumped on it.”
The model will require multiple changes throughout the district, such as installing a double portable at OPE. Fenter said he’s already visited an available pre-owned portable.
In addition, the feeder model requires reorganization of staff and resources, and restructuring transportation routes to avoid bus rides longer than an hour and 15 minutes. A full-time principal will be assigned for each elementary school.
“The input from the community was very valuable,” said board president Michael Robinson. “It makes me more confident Scott made the right decision.”
Where overcrowding is happening
Throughout recent years, the district has faced other reconfiguration plans to account for higher district enrollment.
“A continual increase in student enrollment over the last 10 years has led to Hilltop Middle School experiencing overcrowding,” Fenter said.
Classroom space and other support facilities at Hilltop such as the school’s cafeteria are over-stretched, Fenter said.
Since 2009, Hilltop has experienced three different models. From 2009 to 2014, the school hosted grades 7-12. In 2015, Hilltop became a true middle school with only grades 6-8. Then, in 2016, 5th grade was added to the middle school.
The school currently has about 350 5-8 grade students at Hilltop.
The elementary schools are also overcrowded. Each grade should have four classrooms, yet OPE has 1.5 classrooms per grade and LBE has 2.5 classrooms per grade, Fenter said. The reconfiguration will create room not only for Hilltop students, but elementary students too.
Supporting Boys and Girls Club
The Boys and Girls Club played a large part in the district’s decision making.
“Although the Boys and Girls Club is not a district program, forcing a reduction in their space and availability could force a reduction in an integral service that is projected to grow,” Fenter said.
The club currently hosts just under 100 K-12 students daily. At the club, kids spend time with one another working on homework and participating in activities.
If the district’s Peninsula Active Learners (PAL) grant goes away, the club will see much higher enrollment, Fenter said. Staying at the high school will allow the club to have room to host its current programs but also expand in the future.