Live updates: Council approves enrollment plan


Shun Graves

A poster informs residents about the Ross Town Council’s latest meeting on the Branson enrollment increase.

By Shun Graves

It took three meetings and hours of deliberation, but the Ross Town Council Tuesday approved Branson’s plan to increase its enrollment by a hundred students.

The decision marked the culmination of a years-long process. After the approval of the Measure F ballot measure in early 2020, the school worked with town staff on an application that the council would have to approve. Yet it would take three council meetings over the span of a month for final approval.

The meeting Tuesday largely focused on traffic management. The council had proposed immediate enrollment rollbacks if traffic exceeded certain levels, but in a late-hour letter this week, school officials instead proposed a compromise.

After hitting 100 more students, penalties for violations would alternate between a $100,000 fine and a rollback. Penalties would not apply if the school did not have any violations the next year.

The lengthy meeting — much of it spent with town staff drafting alterations to the proposal — concluded with unanimous approval. After the marathon first meeting, and a second meeting where commenters decried a “draconian” proposed ban on home playoff games, in its third meeting, the council settled on the plan for alternating traffic penalties. And unlike the previous meetings, this one focused solely on traffic.

The enrollment increase will begin with 25 new students next school year. School officials had pushed the town to make a decision before it would release admission decisions for the 2022-23 year.

Live updates

12:54 p.m.

The council votes unanimously to approve the conditions of approval.

“It was a very lengthy process,” Robbins says. The meeting, as well as live updates, ends.

12:45 p.m.

Town staff added three paragraphs that describe a situation with repeated violations. The council appears to be reading the new material.

12:40 p.m.

The council remains on break, though town attorney Ben Stock has appeared on-screen.

12:30 p.m.

The fifth hour of the meeting begins without a decision — and without the council. Members remain on break as staff continue to draft materials.

12:28 p.m.

The council has not returned yet. Staff need to finish drafting an extra paragraph requested by Robbins.

12:15 p.m.

The council takes another 10-minute break.

12:10 p.m.

Staff present the amended proposal. The main document has errors corrected, and incorporates McMillan’s suggestion to split the penalty into two sections: one that covers the period when enrollment increases, and one afterward.

They have also created a document that lists examples of how the plan would apply to certain situations.

The Ross Town Council considers a new document produced by town staff, Feb. 15, 2022. (Shun Graves)


The council returns, and waits for town staff to arrive.

11:30 a.m.

Robbins announces the break will continue until noon.

10:52 a.m.

The council takes a break until 11:30 a.m. Town staff will draft examples of the plan in action.

10:45 a.m.

“The language is confusing; the concept is confusing,” Brekhus says of the plan. She criticizes how the school could return to its full enrollment after a year of traffic compliance following violations.

10:40 a.m.

“I continue to be confused” by certain language about penalties for traffic violations, Brekhus says.

I continue to be confused.

— Elizabeth Brekhus

10:35 a.m.

The council continues to ask questions about the plan. McMillan says the plan should clarify the differences between penalties during the first four years of the increase and those afterward.

10:30 a.m.

The third hour of the meeting begins. Brekhus again criticizes the complexity of the proposal, calling it “complicated.”

Despite the support of three members, the plan continues to face doubts, especially by Brekhus.

10:25 a.m.

Robbins urges Brekhus to discuss her concerns, and for the council to take “whatever time we need” to come to a decision.

10:20 a.m.

“I’m still very much against what we’re doing,” Kuhl says. “I think we’re undertaking micromanaging.”

But, noting the support of McMillan and Kircher, he says he supports the latest proposal.

10:17 a.m.

McMillan reaffirms her support for the latest proposal; Kircher concurs. Biddle, the town attorney, drafted the proposal after conversations with Branson. Mazzola, during the public comment session, urged the council to approve it.

10:10 a.m.

Mayor Elizabeth Robbins asks about language used in the newest proposal — “maximum enrollment cap” — which means the maximum students in a given year.

Expect more questions about specific language in what many members see as a “confusing” proposal.

The Ross Town Council asks more questions of town staff, Feb. 15, 2022. (Shun Graves)

10:05 a.m.

Town attorney Michael Biddle answers questions by Brekhus. She proposes that, instead of the alternating plan, after an initial monetary penalty, every subsequent traffic violation would incur enrollment rollbacks.

10:00 a.m.

Brekhus calls the newest version, created after conversations with Branson officials, “confusing.”

9:55 a.m.

Councilman Bill Kircher says he supports McMillan’s comments. Brekhus says Branson’s vocal supporters “left no room to voice concerns” by others.

9:50 a.m.

Councilwoman Julie McMillan narrates a history of the enrollment increase effort. She defends against criticism of the council by Branson supporters, but ultimately urges approval of the newest conditions.

9:45 a.m.

The council returns. It will now discuss how to move forward.

9:30 a.m.

The second hour of the meeting begins. Head of School Chris Mazzola urges the council to approve the newest set of conditions. Thomas Byrnes asks about details in the traffic plan.

The council takes a 10-minute break.

The public comment session comes to a close at the Ross Town Council meeting, Feb. 15, 2022. (Shun Graves)

9:28 a.m.

Resident David Peterson called the council’s conditions a “really good plan” and the enrollment rollbacks “totally appropriate.”

9:25 a.m.

“There could be people to generate trips,” Peter Nelson says of community members who could manipulate traffic counts with excess trips.

9:22 a.m.

David Parisi, a Branson traffic consultant, says he approves of the new conditions that give the school a grace period to ameliorate any traffic violations.

9:19 a.m.

Quoc Tran, representing Branson’s board, calls the proposed immediate enrollment rollbacks a “constant threat to our operations.”

9:16 a.m.

The public comment session will now begin.

9:10 a.m.

“It’s on the edge of getting confusing,” Councilman Beach Kuhl, mayor pro tempore, said of the conditions created with Branson officials.

It’s on the edge of getting confusing.

— Beach Kuhl

9:08 a.m.

The conditions created after conversations with Branson seem to have sowed some confusion, and new doubts, among some council members.

9:05 a.m.

“One way to read the proposal is it allows them to be out of compliance 50% of the time,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Brekhus says of Branson. Town staff clarifies that it takes two violations in two years (not necessarily consecutive) for penalties to take effect.

9:00 a.m.

The council asks questions to clarify details about a traffic penalty plan that has become rather complex.

8:56 a.m.

For this alternating pattern to take effect, the school must first hit 100 students and have a year without traffic violations.

8:52 a.m.

Other proposed conditions, created after conversations with Branson officials, involve a monetary penalty for odd-numbered traffic violations, and an enrollment penalty for even-numbered violations. The penalties will take a year to take effect.

Town staff respond to questions by the Ross Town Council, Feb. 15, 2022. (Shun Graves)

8:45 a.m.

The council’s proposal still includes the enrollment rollbacks based on traffic volumes.

8:40 a.m.

Staff continue to present the council’s current proposal. This plan further restricts on-campus student pickups and adds a spring period for traffic monitoring.

8:35 a.m.

A staff presentation begins with an overview of the town’s proposed conditions. A new rule would invoice the school for the costs of a traffic consultant.

8:30 a.m.

The meeting begins with all members in attendance.