JANESVILLE — The lines that divide Janesville's middle schools have not changed in decades, but they might in the near future.
Enrollments are lopsided, with about 920 students at Marshall Middle School, 696 at Edison Middle School and 575 at Franklin Middle School, officials said.
Superintendent Karen Schulte thinks a more equitable use of middle school space should be considered. She recently asked the district Boundary Lines Committee to review the situation.
"I feel we need to take a good, hard look at our boundaries once again," Schulte said.
Schulte said the committee might recommend doing nothing. Or the recommendation could be to shift populations away from Marshall and to the schools with excess capacity.
The last time the boundaries committee looked at the issue was in 2000, and the situation was similar.
An enrollment projection in 2000 showed Marshall peaking at 974 in 2001 and then slowly declining. The administration at that time decided that dealing with one school's high enrollment for a few years would be better than the disruptions caused by shifting attendance boundaries.
Schulte said the committee has a lot of information to sift through before it makes any decisions, but shifting population away from Marshall should be considered.
"I think we need to talk about it. We need to hear from the Marshall principal regarding their capacity and whether things are working well for them," Schulte said in an interview.
Marshall is near capacity, and it is located in the fastest-growing part of the city.
Some parts of the neighboring Milton School District are in the city and close to Marshall. The state open-enrollment law allows parents to send their children across district lines, and Janesville receives many open-enrollment students from Milton.
As budgets have become tighter, the Janesville School Board has become increasingly interested the revenue-generating potential of out-of-district students. Space freed up at Marshall could accommodate more open-enrolling students.
One reason the committee might recommend no action is that the smallest middle school, Franklin, could boost its enrollment by becoming home to a charter school.
The school board on Tuesday approved a grant application that could start the process for setting up the charter school in a wing of Franklin. Principal Charlie Urness told the board that the school could boost Franklin enrollment from 575 to 700.
The school would be high-tech and involve the latest in instructional innovation, including project-based learning, Urness said. Its curriculum would focus on science, technology, engineering and math.
School board member Greg Ardrey leads the Boundary Lines Committee. He said the committee has been considering getting rid of boundary lines altogether.
Ardrey has floated the idea of a "pathways" plan, in which students from each elementary school would be assigned a middle school.
Currently, students at some elementary schools, such as Adams, are split, with some going to Marshall and some to Franklin.
Schulte said that no matter what happens, the potential for disruption is small because the district allows parents to transfer their children among the schools.
Schulte expects families would be allowed to stay with their current schools, so any shift of neighborhoods from one school to another would be gradual.
The committee probably will take four to six months before making its recommendation, so the earliest a change could be made would be fall 2013, Schulte said.
Middle school enrollments
The basics on Janesville's three middle schools:
Edison—Enrollment 696. Estimated capacity 900. Built in 1971.
Franklin—Enrollment 575. Estimated capacity 700-750. Built in 1962 with an addition in 1999.
Marshall—Enrollment 920. Marshall's capacity has been estimated differently over the years. It was designed for a maximum 1,050 students, officials said while it was being built in 1996. The estimate in 2000 was 936.