District official: Sparta schools in crisis

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:15

    Sparta-According to Sparta district officials, student test scores are already beginning to fall because of overcrowding in the schools. To compound the problem, officials contend, plans to build a new high school may be cut short because of lack of suitable land available within the township. One year from now, Sparta residents will be asked to vote on a referendum to build a new high school. However, to this point, school officials have been unable to find a piece of land suitable for such a building. On Tuesday night, school representatives packed a special joint township council/school board meeting to ask council members for assistance. "I thought we were in good shape until Thursday night," said Superintendent Dr. Thomas Morton speaking of possible sites for a new high school. On Thursday, he discovered that the state's Department of Environmental Protection could delay the acquisition of land by several years. The schools, according to Morton, are already bursting at the seams with the increased enrollment of the past few years and will not be able to withstand an additional five years of growth. This, he said, is also affecting academic performance. "New data this year is by the worst we've seen yet," said Morton about students' scores on state sponsored tests. "We're at ground zero." However, Morton did not release any specifics on the test scores. School officials asked the council if it could assist the board with the acquisition of land by either fast tracking an application or discussing the sharing of township land with the school board. Although council members said that they have to go through the same process as anyone else to buy land, both parties did agree to meet in the near future to studya way to cooperate.