St. Clair County Board of Education talks next steps to address overcrowding in schools

ODENVILLE — The St. Clair County Board of Education once again talked in depth about the overcrowding issues at its schools such as Springville during its meeting Tuesday.

According to Superintendent Mike Howard, there continues to be an influx of new residents in the area and consequently new enrollment regularly.

Springville Elementary specifically has seen 80 new students in just the past school year.

Howard said because of the increased growth from last year, the board was able to secure some extra funding from the state to provide more teacher units, however, there is currently nowhere to place these classrooms. The board will then have to decide if it wants to bring in portable trailers which can cost roughly $400,000 not including the portable bathrooms required to go with each trailer, or consider closing down the pre-K program in Springville, which would create about five new classrooms that are needed.

“We’ve talked about the unfortunate events of bringing in portable trailers,” Howard said. “We’re talking to the state right now about where they would go, where they would fit and those types of things.”

St. Clair County Board of Education talks next steps to address overcrowding in schools

“The reason I am saying this is because as you know, portables cost money. A portable classroom is around $80,000 a piece, a portable bathroom is around $100,000 a piece. Right now, Springville Elementary would need at least four portable classrooms, which warrants one or two portable bathrooms depending on the number of bathrooms in the building.”

He added, “No one wants to get rid of pre-K, at all, but those are four and five classrooms that are being taken up in the building, that would offset the amount of teachers (Springville Elementary) has to get to continue to have school.”

Howard also noted that the pre-K program can be picked up by other entities in the county such as a church, but the board is not required to provide the program by the state.

The superintendent also discussed similar issues at Margaret Elementary, which enrolled 100 students this year and is projected to grow another 60 in the upcoming school year. With the new ad valorem tax that was voted down in November, the board was planning to add a needed additional wing to the school. However, if portables are brought in to accommodate the needed space, the issue of where to place them comes into play as there is little space to start with.

“Growth is an issue that we all knew was coming, but it’s here so I want you to think about it tonight and chew on the different options that we have. I don’t want to cut pre-K, so please hear that,” Howard said. “That’s not our goal, but we’re employed and we have to serve K-12. That is a mandate.”

He added that Odenville is looking as though it's headed in the same direction of overcrowding.

“This is a major issue that we’re going to have to address,” he said. “I don’t really have an easy solution — I wish I did.”

Howard encouraged the board to try and make a decision by the next regular board meeting April 19.