Before the new school year gets too far along, we would be remiss if we didn’t pause long enough to recognize the incredible efforts by those responsible for school planning that typically result in a smooth and seamless transition from one school year to the next.
While many of us find the logistics of getting our own children from Point A to Point B to sometimes be daunting, school planners have to do so without ever knowing for sure exactly how many students to expect or where they are going to live.
Even after the bells ring to usher in that first day of class, the student population remains in flux, typically not settling in until after Labor Day, and continuing to increase throughout the school year.
To accommodate those students, school system planners have to predict with considerable accuracy how many there will be and where in the county they are likely to live. Miss with the projections and the end result can be too many classrooms built to serve one area of the county, and too few built to serve somewhere else.
Projecting growth patterns and classroom needs is not a part-time job that happens over the summer months between school years, but rather a year-long effort that plays an important part in planning of future school constructions and long-term financing of building projects. Considering that it can take years from the time a school is conceived until it is completed and in use, knowing where to build it and how big it needs to be is vital.
In the past three years, the county school system has added some 5,000 students. Had plans not been made well in advance for those students, adequate space would not be available today. Between now and the first of the year, the school system anticipates adding another 1,500. Without accurate projections and detailed planning, that many new students might pose an impossible challenge.
Similarly, those responsible for planning transportation for students within the school system face an incredibly challenging task each year. This year, more than 24,000 students will be riding school system buses. Planning the best routes for serving those students with the least impact on traffic patterns, and projecting where newcomers to the system are likely to live, are vital parts of the overall planning process.
Certainly there will be those who will look for reasons to quibble over individual cases — a bus route that doesn’t make sense, a classroom with too many students. But looking at the big picture, the efforts required to project student growth and deal with the logistics of just getting kids in front of a teacher are pretty remarkable.
The degree of accuracy we have come to expect in student projections is remarkable. Not all counties can say the same.
Before long we will once again be deep into another school year, and the planning effort that goes into making it all happen will be taken for granted, as other issues arise for discussion and debate. But for now, a tip of the hat to all of those responsible for knowing where the kids will be, and planning for how to get them into the schools for an opportunity to learn.