Addressing district growth will continue to be the Gretna Board of Education’s focus in 2016.

The board recently outlined its goals for the coming year, and, in addition to current building construction, the list includes planning for the next bond issue, identifying additional school sites, expanding student opportunities and improving technology throughout the district.

“The issues of growth are always on the forefront. If you’re not careful, it runs you over,” said Kevin Riley, superintendent of Gretna Public Schools. “It’s a daily issue.”

When the new middle and elementary schools open in the fall of 2017, the district projects an enrollment of 4,860 students, or 86 percent of the district’s capacity.

With a projected enrollment growth rate of 7.9 percent annually, board members understand the need to keep pace.

“It’s something we have to stay on top of all the time,” Riley said.

District staff continually track both enrollment numbers, and planned and ongoing development in the community, Riley said, and that information has been key in district planning.

“We’ve had online registration for years here. That’s really helped us,” Riley said.

Kindergarten registration recently started for next fall, and the superintendent said the district received 80 applications the first day alone.

The board report approved Jan. 25 details goals that largely address this continued growth. The 33 goals for 2016 fall into six areas: general administration, activities, curriculum, building and construction, finance and public relations.

While construction continues on the district’s second middle school and fifth elementary school, the board will begin to look for sites for additional schools and facilities, upgrade existing portable classrooms and investigate the need for additional ones, plan and construct a central office addition and begin planning for the next bond issue.

In addition to physical classroom space, the growth in the district presents other challenges as well.

“We have to work not to lose our culture, our philosophy, as we grow,” Riley said.

To that end, the board’s curriculum goals include developing high school career ready programs and pathways, exploring and expanding classroom intervention and enrichment opportunities, implementing best teaching practices and upgrading technology.

In the public relations section, goals include promoting a culture of one unified educational community and establishing an alumni association.

The report grew out of the annual board retreat, which took place Jan. 2. Members spent the day discussing and exploring ideas and goals without the constraints of a board meeting, Riley said.

“It’s the very best of democracy at work. It’s not an administrator led meeting; it’s a board led meeting,” Riley said. “It’s an opportunity to discuss what’s the vision for this district.”

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