Solan further expressed her thoughts, and those of other parents she spoke with, in an email.

"While safety and logistics are certainly two of my biggest concerns with the overcrowding, my feedback from other families shows a level of frustration that we have a beautiful new building that cannot be used to its full potential," she wrote. "This year is the first year where full-time classes have had to move out into portables (in the past it was specials like music or G/T), and some parents are frustrated that their children will spend almost their entire day in a portable right next to fully equipped, new classrooms."

The luxury of space

Pratesi agreed with Bruce that, regardless of student population, the county's schools operate similarly, at least from an educational standpoint.


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"The dynamic of what happens during the school day really is consistent regardless of what your population is, because you may have less staffing, but it doesn't impact the curriculum the children will be exposed to," she said.

Still, she said, having fewer students in a massive building comes with perks.

One extra classroom has been set up as a computer lab for students, so the school's designated lab is always available to teachers. Another classroom is set aside as a resource room for student interventions. Larger spaces are always available for multiple classes in the same grade to join together for special events.

"We love the extra space," Baker said. "It gives us a sense of community to get together."

Dayton Oaks PTA President Julie Krein said parents are also happy for the space, but at times feel spoiled.

"It's nice for their own kids, but they would like to see things more balanced," Krein said, noting wasted space is also wasted tax money.

Pratesi said the school system just relocated its Regional Early Childhood Center to Dayton Oaks, and various meetings and countywide training sessions have been held at the school, to utilize the extra space.

In addition, this year was the first year that the school didn't lose a teacher because of dropping numbers. Instead, it gained two teachers, Pratesi said. At 56.6 percent of capacity, the school is actually slightly up from 2009, when it was at 55.6 percent.

Pratesi said she expects the economy is to blame for low enrollment numbers in recent years, but hopes that is turning around.

Until then, she'll keep working with the school system to find ways to take advantage of all the extra space, she said, and would welcome redistricted kids from anywhere in the county.

"The mission will always stay the same," she said.