Our community is growing at a rapid pace, and Lakeville Area Schools must grow with it. The referendum that voters approved in November will help expand opportunities and support the success of our students. When I tour our schools, I see teachers, support staff and administrators working hard to provide the excellent educational opportunities this community has come to expect. But I also see schools that are struggling to accommodate the rapid growth in their enrollment. In some schools, we put up temporary walls in the library, turned common areas into classrooms, and built additions on existing buildings. For now, we have been able to stretch resources to accommodate the enrollment growth while holding to our commitment to small class sizes at the elementary level. But every year our buildings are getting fuller and soon we will run out of ways to accommodate our students within our current building structures.
You probably have noticed the hallmarks of a prosperous community: bulldozers, construction, and new homes for sale. Since 2016, Lakeville and its surrounding communities have been on an upward trajectory. That trajectory has pushed enrollment in our schools to its highest level ever. We have added 100-200 more students every year since 2016. The Board of Education has begun discussing plans to accommodate this growth and I encourage community members to watch videos of their discussions on our website.
My recommendation is to match our students with appropriate spaces for learning. In the short term, we have been building additions on elementary schools that have seen the most growth. We see those additions as a better value than portable classrooms because portables are as expensive as additions, but they do not serve our future needs in the way that additions can. In the long term, we know we will need new buildings and boundary changes. We predict we will have 1,300 more students in our district by school year 2024-25, of whom 1,000 are projected to be elementary school students.
Some of you may remember that we converted Crystal Lake Elementary School into an early childhood education center in 2009. That decision, which was driven by financial constraints on the district, was the right decision. Crystal Lake Education Center has been a tremendous success in providing our community with early childhood opportunities that support the long-term success of our students. In fact, we ascertain that we need more space for early childhood programming in our district. In all, turning Crystal Lake back into an elementary school is not fiscally or operationally our best option.
We do have space at some of our buildings. Our current assessment is that middle schools and high schools have adequate space to accommodate the growth we predict in the next few years, but most of our elementary schools are full. The elementary schools that do have space now do not have enough space to accommodate the students who will be arriving in the next few years. Additionally, our Area Learning Center building requires significant upkeep investments that far outweigh the cost of building a new facility.
We appreciate the support this community has given our schools over the years. We take our community’s expectations seriously and strive always to be good stewards of the resources we have. That is why we are doing everything we can to address the growth we have seen without asking voters for a new building. There will come a time, however, when we will have to ask for the community’s support once again because we cannot build new buildings without voter approval. We will only ask for that approval once all of the facts are weighed and all of our options explored.