Some Eau Claire schools nearing capacity

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A local school district is planning for the future, as multiple elementary schools near capacity.

The Eau Claire Area School District is the eighth largest in the state of Wisconsin, with more than 11,000 students enrolled.

But district officials say three of the district's elementary schools are nearing capacity.

ECASD officials say their "sweet spot" is between 75 and 85 percent capacity at each school.

But two elementary schools are sitting at more than 90 percent capacity, with a third nearing that mark.

Classes at Manz, Putnam Heights, and Meadowview Elementaries are crowded these days.

Meadowview and Putnam Heights are at more than 90 percent capacity, and Manz Elementary is near that mark.

"Eau Claire is growing and we see that reflected in our student enrollment. So one of the things we do is we watch student enrollment trends and we have been a growing district consistently for the past several years," said ECASD Executive Director of Administration Kim Koller.

Thursday, the Demographic Trends and Facility Planning Committee met to discuss ways to address the growing number of students.

Currently, the committee is looking for both short-term and long-term relief options at the three schools, because there's no space in that area of the city to move students around.

"There are really a number of relief options that a district can choose. Some of those could be looking at providing parents choice within certain boundary areas. So you saw that with Roosevelt and Sherman for the past several years," explained Koller.

Koller says the issue of schools nearing full capacity is not new in Eau Claire.

But it's consistently a priority for the district to try and resolve.

"Some of the places you'll notice it are in the classroom so when we have students that move in we might not be able for example, as a district we might be able to provide another teacher, but there might not be space for another teacher to have a classroom," said Koller.

For short-term relief options, the district says there's a possibility of implementing some ideas starting next school year such as mobile classrooms or changing school boundaries.

Long-term solutions, like potential new facilities, won't be implemented for at least three more years as the committee looks at different data such as birth trends and the age of students in Eau Claire.

The committee hopes to make its recommendations to the full school board on relief options sometime this spring.

The full school board will then make a decision on how to proceed.