While overcrowding in the Madison Metropolitan School District has been a concern for the past few years, district officials say it is time to move past “Band-Aid” solutions and address these issues head on.
MMSD is looking at immediate and long-term solutions to fix overcrowding in classrooms and increasing class sizes that are potentially affecting students’ education, according to a district report to the Board of Education.
The report states while most MMSD schools are not overcrowded, seven schools are operating at more than 100 percent capacity, and the ideal capacity is around 90 percent.
District spokesperson Marcia Standiford said MMSD’s primary focus is to provide stability for the students.

Dean Loumos, a MMSD Board of Education member, said it is common sense to know that overcrowding affects the students’ ability to learn. Class size as well as school space matters and cramming students into ill-suited rooms causes problems for everyone, he said.

The Board of Education considers overcrowding a serious issue that could not be ignored, Loumos said.

“Overcrowding is not conducive to good education policy, good implementation of a curriculum and it causes problems in behavior, which then impacts what goes on in the classroom,” he said.

Loumos pointed to housing policy and housing development as clear issues that lead to overcrowding and said the demographics of where people live and which school district they are in is not easy to control.

“We have some schools that are under capacity and some that are at or over, or nearly at capacity, and it has a lot to do with the districts that are bound that send kids to that particular school and housing policies and housing development,” Loumos said. “It’s a really complicated situation, and a lot of it is not under our direct control.”

Loumos referred to his visits to Sandberg Elementary and Hamilton Middle School, both of which are over ideal capacity and are predicted to increase in the future. He said both schools had a lot of land but were crammed with students in the actual classrooms.

The report said the ideal capacity for classrooms is calculated based on the number of available classrooms and the number of students that can sit in a room. According to the report, the capacity formula was designed to be conservative and allow for a bit of overflow, and schools that are full may still have open seats in classrooms.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the overcrowding is not a big surprise due to the consistent population increases that Madison has seen, notably in the downtown area.

“It’s my hope that some day the school district will seriously consider opening the long ago shuttered downtown schools now that there is an increase of families living downtown,” Verveer said.

Loumos said the board is considering several options to curb the capacity issues, such as facility upgrades in areas with population increases or even simply increasing the size of schools. According to Loumos, the one option that is not being discussed is redistricting.

The MMSD report cited a larger effort to build a long-term facilities plan and said they will review options for addressing the capacity issue.