MERCED — In future years, some of Merced's elementary schools may include sixth-graders as the Merced City School District grapples with growth and capacity issues on campuses throughout the community.
Merced City School District Board of Education members gave administrators and planners the go-ahead Tuesday night to consider expanding elementary schools with kindergarten through fifth-grade classes to include sixth grade.
No firm decisions on individual school changes were approved, but facilities planners will use this school year and the next one to study realigning certain schools for the 2014-2015 school year, said Greg Spicer, associate superintendent for administrative services.
Two of Merced's elementary schools, Chenoweth and Peterson, are above their rated capacity, and middle school enrollments are high, too. Board member Gene Stamm said the district will need to build three more schools and pass a bond issue to raise the necessary funds for expansion.
Stamm and Superintendent RoseMary Parga Duran said middle schools are much more expensive to build than elementary schools, costing about $45 million, because they include sophisticated facilities such as laboratories and separate gymnasiums.
Stamm stressed that any growth or realignment proposals will come back to the board for approval.
"We want to have more information about what they will look like," Stamm said. "We have a year to plan; we know we need three sites on the north side and we've got to do something."
Board President Adam Cox said the vote to proceed will give the master plan consultants from the Dolinka Group the go-ahead to study changes in grade-level configurations and the best utilization of space.
"It's very important to me that we involve all our stakeholders in what our schools will look like," Cox said. "I am really excited to see what schools look like in the next 10 to 20 years."
The district has some land on Paulson Road, extra space at the Rivera Middle School campus and the Lehigh area in north Merced to build new schools, Stamm said.
Duran said changes in schools' grade-level configurations may be made on an individual school basis.
Spicer also said any grade-level shifts likely will be implemented gradually over time as the district has the capacity to do so, and not all elementary schools will include sixth-grade classes.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.