Thursday April 23, 2015
Following a successful March 31community meeting, the Master Planning and Visioning Task Force reconvened April 9 to gather feedback from members of the group and their consultants. Since November 2014, the 13 task force members have invested over 600 hours evaluating data regarding plans for the future of the city and schools with the help of a team of consultants from Cope & Associates, McKibben Demographics, Frank Locker Consulting, and Dore & Whittier Architects.
On March 31, with 143 community members in attendance, the task force presented several options for consideration, and invited dialogue and public feedback. Participants gathered at tables in small groups to discuss city and school priorities, school building and grade configuration concepts, and potential school building repurposing options.
At the April 9th meeting, task force members shared general observations from the community meeting, reporting that participants overwhelmingly felt positive about the process and enjoyed playing “The Big Deal” cards – which provided a framework for the discussions.
Task force members also shared comments made by participants at the community meeting. These candid remarks included a strong desire for green space and interest in magnet or special interest schools like those in Burlington. Also, there seemed to be limited awareness about City Center, and some participants had trouble making the connection between the school vision and the city vision.
Despite a general sense of positivity surrounding the process, skepticism remained. Many participants thought the potential sale of RM Central School would be discussed at the community meeting, and several others wondered why selling or re-purposing aging school buildings was actually necessary when some communities have schools far older than 50 years. One community member asked for more compelling reasons before spending money on new facilities.
Paul Dickin and Kate McInnis from Cope & Associates reported that after evaluating the results from all tables, the top consideration was focused on school vision, and the configuration most preferred for school re-organization included two elementary schools, using either two existing buildings, or one existing and one newly built school, with the current middle and high schools remaining as they are.
The task force will use information gathered at the community meeting as they formulate a final recommendation to make to the city. Public opinion will also be gathered through a community survey.
Dickin said to the task force, “Everyone participated and I think they understood the complexity of what you’re trying to do. In terms of the survey, what else do you want to know from the community? What is going to get you to a point where you can make a recommendation?”
The task force struggled with this question for over an hour and after much debate, asked Cope & Associates to create a draft survey for their review. This will allow them time to make changes before the survey goes “live.”
What’s next? The community survey will be finalized soon, and will remain open for two weeks. Tentative plans call for survey results to be presented at the May 7 meeting.
The task force is also aiming to hold another community meeting the week of May 18. This will allow them time to draft their final recommendation, which will be presented to the school board at the June 3 meeting, and to the city’s steering committee.
Couldn’t attend the meeting? Catch up on the city website or on RETN and offer your feedback through the community survey, which will be available soon at www.surveymonkey.com/s/SouthBurlington.
SOURCE:Corey Burdick, Correspondent