Hoover school officials tonight said they are re-evaluating the formula they use to determine how many students each school can hold as they examine ways to redraw school attendance zones.
Some members of the public have questioned the reliability of the method school officials have historically used to determine school capacities, and school officials say the questions that have been raised are good ones worth considering.
The school capacity numbers that school officials have been sharing at community meetings about rezoning take into account that some classrooms are used for science labs and art and music instruction, but they appear to adjust capacity rates twice for the same factor, said Steve Hertz, a Bluff Park resident who met with school officials about the issue this morning.
The end result is that the school capacity numbers are artificially deflated, showing less room than is actually available, Hertz said.
Assistant Superintendent Ron Dodson, who met with Hertz this morning, said Hertz’s question is legitimate, and he spent a good part of the day talking to principals about the space in their schools.
School officials still are evaluating their capacity models to see if there is a better way to determine how many students can reasonably fit in a school, Dodson said. Teacher planning periods also have to be taken into account, he said.
Both Dodson and Superintendent Kathy Murphy said they appreciate the input from residents and will continue studying the issue.
However, Murphy said conversations with principals today reveal that some schools still are at capacity, while others have room for more students. She said inquiries today found the following number of potential classrooms available at each elementary school:
- Rocky Ridge – out of room
- Bluff Park – one classroom available
- Deer Valley – two classrooms available
- Riverchase – three classrooms available
- Shades Mountain – three classrooms available
- Green Valley – five classrooms available
- South Shades Crest – five classrooms available
- Gwin – six classrooms available
- Greystone – nine classrooms available
- Trace Crossings – 12 classrooms available
The numbers shared by Hoover officials at rezoning meetings indicated Bluff Park was at 108 percent of optimal capacity and 97 percent of maximum capacity, but Hertz said his analysis shows the school at 90 percent of optimal capacity and 81 percent of maximum capacity.
That’s an important difference when overcrowding is being used as a basis for rezoning, he said.
Joshua Bryant, another Bluff Park resident, tonight told the school board during their meeting that Bluff Park, Gwin and Green Valley are in low-growth zones and likely won’t be adding many more students.
It’s important for school officials to make sure the information on which they are basing their decisions is accurate, he said.
Dodson said school officials are still trying to make sense of the data, and it will take some time.
School board member Earl Cooper said another factor that must be considered is the school system's finances because finances help determine how many students are assigned to each teacher and thus how many can fit in each classroom.