More than one solution may be required to solve Northwest Allen County Schools’ building needs as it faces a decade of forecast growth.

The 8,100-student district will likely use strategies specific to the three building levels – elementary, middle and high. Possibilities include redistricting the elementary schools and undergoing construction projects at the secondary level, Superintendent Wayne Barker told the school board Monday night.

Two weeks earlier, demographer Jerome McKibben presented an enrollment forecast showing that NACS will have 8,996 students in the 2032-33 academic year. The additional 859 students represent a 10.6% increase.

Statewide, McKibben told the board, 75% of school districts are expected to lose enrollment in the next decade.

“We’re in a great position to be able to grow,” Barker said Monday, “but that certainly causes issues that we also have to react to.”

McKibben recommended prioritizing the middle and high schools. He said decisions about building a ninth elementary school could wait until at least 2025.

Changing the attendance boundaries, or redistricting, could remedy overcrowding because not every elementary school is expected to approach or reach capacity, Barker said. For example, he said, Eel River Elementary School is significantly below capacity.

Redistricting isn’t an option for the two middle schools, which are both expected to be at capacity in two years. Likely solutions include expansion and renovation projects or building a new school – but not necessarily a third middle school, Barker said.

The board could consider building an intermediate school with fifth and sixth grades, the superintendent said, explaining that such a school could also provide relief at the elementary level.

“Those are the decisions that we’re going to have to make going forward,” Barker said.

Barker briefly addressed the need for more room at the high school, which is forecast to exceed capacity in the 2026-27 academic year.

Finally, Barker asked the board to consider the needs of the central office, which is connected to Perry Hill Elementary School. It lacks storage and conference space, he said, and some workspaces are the size of closets.

Ron Felger, board president, agreed something must be done.

“This really is not a real efficient space,” Felger said, noting the area has served the administration for nearly 50 years.

Monday’s discussion was a first step toward Barker’s goal of creating a plan responding to the enrollment forecast. The central office staff will start compiling information for the board’s consideration, he said, and conversations will likely start with architects to study options. Officials also plan to visit comparable districts to learn how they’ve handled enrollment growth.

Reporter

Reporter Ashley Sloboda has covered education for The Journal Gazette since 2016. A Fort Wayne native, she has 15 years of experience at newspapers in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana.