Master Planning and Visioning: Committee Structure

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Thursday July 13, 2017

After deliberative and thoughtful conversation regarding the master planning and visioning process as it relates to the future of South Burlington’s schools, the school board decided, in December 2016, on a resolution that would provide the board with information to move forward. As of mid-June, a committee structure has been put into place to execute the items within the resolution presented by Martin LaLonde in early winter. The resolution included four items as well as target dates for achievement.

As a refresher, the four items in the resolution passed in December include identifying needed upgrades at the high school and middle school no later than June 30, 2018; setting up a system to monitor impacts on the district’s ability to maintain/improve upon K-5 education, providing documentation by September 1, 2017; investigating threats to health and education at Chamberlin and creating a contingency plan by December 31, 2017 to ensure equitable delivery of education should Chamberlin need to close; and revitalizing the district’s strategic plan by evaluating current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) by December 31, 2018.

The board’s arrival at this juncture has been a multifaceted process. How the city’s schools could evolve as a result of changing demographics, pressures from airport noise, and City Center growth has been discussed in depth since mid-November 2014 when the Master Planning and Visioning Task Force first convened. Their final report was issued to the school board in August 2015. Before weighing in on the topic of school configuration and consolidation, the board requested further study about educational outcomes and financial data as well as public input. Final reports and studies were completed in August 2016 and the board worked hard to evaluate the information and find consensus. Ultimately, LaLonde’s four-item resolution was the direction the board decided to take, rather than moving toward any type of school consolidation in the near term, an issue upon which board members’ views varied widely and lacked public support.

As of late June 2017, board members Steve Wisloski and Bridget Burkhardt have agreed to serve on the subcommittee with Superintendent David Young and his administrative team to begin execution of the four tasks outlined in the board’s resolution. There is $40,000 in the budget approved June 6 to identify specific needs for upgrades at the middle and high school and the business office will prepare a RFP (request for proposals) to determine specific areas to be analyzed from both a facilities and educational perspective.

Some issues the board will be most curious to explore involve the current and future noise levels at Chamberlin School as a result of airport noise. Young has been among those pushing the airport and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to get the noise data sooner, since the district can’t predict what will change with the arrival of the F35 in 2019. Young wants to evaluate the total number of learning minutes lost due to noise and the impact on overall health.

The FY18 budget did not include funding for a study to ensure equitable delivery of education to Chamberlin students who would need to be relocated if the school is closed in the future. If this needed to happen, in the short term, the district would look to the facilities department budget for any unused funds in contractual services for this purpose.

An additional item the subcommittee will be studying is the work by McKibben Demographics, which will be providing a draft of population projections, methodology used, assumptions made, and margin of error. Part of this work will help inform the process of acquiring accurate information around noise impacts at Chamberlin School. The subcommittee will also be reviewing airport data, maps, drawings, and conversations with Stitzel, Page, and Fletcher about how best to move forward with FAA communications.

Regular updates on this work will be provided at school board meetings.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent