Task Force to Present School Options June 3

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Thursday May 28, 2015

After months of planning, information gathering, and analysis, the joint City/School Master Planning and Visioning Task Force is ready to present their recommended options to the steering committee June 3. The meeting will take place at Tuttle Middle School from 6-7 p.m., just prior to the school board’s regular meeting, slated to begin at 7:30.

The volunteer task force committee members have been evaluating ways to reconfigure the schools to meet the changing needs of the community. The thirteen task force members have been working with the help of a consultant team since November.

At the first May task force meeting, two options received strong support from committee members; both options involved selling or leasing Central School. One configuration presented one newly built consolidated K-4 elementary school, grades 5-8 in the current Tuttle Middle School, and 9-12 in the current high school. This option would involve Chamberlin and Orchard Schools either being sold or being re-purposed for city use.

The other option involves two elementary schools, one K-2 and one 3-5, one of which would be in a new school and the other in an existing school (likely Orchard), grades 6-8 in the current Tuttle Middle School, and 9-12 in the current high school. In this option, Chamberlin would be sold or re-purposed by the city. The primary reason task force members liked this option was that equity issues in terms of access were addressed.

The May 19 meeting provided a more detailed analysis of the costs associated with the two options as well as presentation of a minority report. Although the task force unanimously voted to move forward with the two options above, a few members still had concerns, and a document outlining the reasons for their trepidation was presented.

Among the concerns expressed in the minority report drafted by task force members Abby Crocker and Monica Ostby is that the least favorite option, as voted on by the community at the March meeting (one consolidated elementary school), is being moved forward. They also expressed concern about the number of school transitions for children in the K-2, 3-5 scenario, and what they consider the premature elimination of an option for two vertically aligned K-4 schools (one existing facility and one new construction), which they argue would continue to retain the feeling of neighborhood schools.

Ostby said, “While we respect the opinion of the four educators on the task force, we feel that our group did not fully analyze the impact of changing the elementary grade configuration (from K-5 to K-2 and 3-5), academically and logistically, and feel strongly that it needs further consideration by the steering committee and school board before making such a drastic change for our city.”

At the steering committee meeting, the public will have a chance to hear more about the work that went into the decision making process as well as the task force’s rationale for the two options they are recommending. The steering committee does not have voting authority, therefore, this will be an opportunity for the city council, the school board, and residents to hear and contemplate the recommendations.

If you want to brush up on the task force’s work prior to the meeting, go to www.sburl.com where all of the meeting agendas, minutes, and supplemental information have been posted throughout the process.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent