With new homes springing up at an unprecedented rate in LeClaire, the Pleasant Valley School District is planning for building expansions to accommodate additional students.
Superintendent James Spelhaug said that by this time next year, "there is a high probability" the district will be doing major work at Cody or Bridgeview Elementary schools — or both — or building a $5 million addition to the junior high. All of those buildings are in the LeClaire city limits.
Both Cody and Bridgeview are two-section elementary schools, meaning each has two sections of each grade, and Spelhaug said that at some point both will need to be three sections per grade. That would boost capacity at each of the grades K-6 schools from 330 to 450 students.
The question being studied now is which elementary school to expand first, based on cost-efficiency, Spelhaug said. Regardless of which school is chosen for expansion, the other will be remodeled and updated as a precursor to housing three sections, he added.
The district has a strict policy on class sizes, so if building capacity lags behind enrollment, students are bused to other schools.
At present, for example, both Bridgeview and Cody are at maximum class size for the first grade. If another child enrolls in first grade, that child will have to be bused to one of the district's three elementary schools in Bettendorf: Pleasant View, Riverdale Heights or Hopewell.
"We just do not go over those class sizes," Spelhaug said. "We've been able to stay ahead of it," he said of growing enrollment. "We've always had enough room somewhere in the district."
Expansion of the grades 7-8 Pleasant Valley Junior High would take it to a capacity of 850 students. It currently enrolls about 710, he said.
For this school year, the K-12 district's enrollment is up by 80 to 90 students. Those numbers would be higher except that more students are open-enrolled outside the district than are open-enrolled in. About 300 students open-enroll into Pleasant Valley and 370 to 380 open-enroll out, Spelhaug said.
In the next five years, the high school will need to be expanded, and the planned construction of a sixth elementary school — Forest Grove — might have to be moved up, he said.
"We were thinking 10-plus years for Forest Grove, but we're not going to make that if things continue as they are," he said. "Forest Grove is a big factor in that a new elementary costs about $10 million," he said.
Historically, Pleasant Valley has been a pay-as-you go district with no borrowing. Within the past couple of years, it has secured a line of credit to help with cash flow, but the time may come when it has to take out a multimillion-dollar loan, borrowed against future levies, to keep up with construction demands, Spelhaug added.