Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The District Budget

by Casey Tolan
February 2010. Reprinted from Ripples Newspaper.

The grade reorganization committee has chosen three grade configurations to recommend to the school board, one of which would close Atwater and two more which would close SIS.

The proposals still have a long way to go before going into action. The committee plans to finalize the language that it will present to superintendent Blane McCann, who will then decide whether or not to submit the three proposals to the school board. Finally, the board will choose to go ahead with one or none of the proposals as they cut $800,000 from the 2010-2011 budget in the coming months.

The first proposal, which is estimated to save $395,986, would make Lake Bluff K-4, make Atwater 5-8, close SIS, and leave SHS unchanged. While the committee liked that this proposal preserved the “middle level experience,” members noted that renovations like implementing hallway lockers, a locker room for PE classes, or even larger bathrooms might be needed in Atwater.

However, “if we’re going to do anything it’s going to be in the minor remodeling mode rather than the major remodeling mode,” said Dean Schultz, interim co-director of instruction and committee facilitator. High remodeling costs could eat up any savings gained from reorganizing.

The second proposal, estimated to save $343,487, would make both Lake Bluff and Atwater K-6 schools, close SIS, and incorporate seventh and eighth graders into the high school. Committee members liked that the two elementaries would remain unchanged and would require no renovations.

However, they were less happy with the idea of having seventh graders and seniors in the same school.

“That scares me as a parent,” said Jay Sorenson, who has a child at Lake Bluff.

Furthermore, the logistics of fitting so many kids in SHS would be tricky. Although SHS principal Matt Joynt said that SHS was originally designed for grades 7-12, he joked that there might have to be “kids on the roof” with this proposal. Teachers would likely be unable to have prep periods in their classrooms, as almost every room would be used almost every hour of the day.

The committee also debated whether or not the seventh and eighth graders would be kept separate from the rest of the high school. That decision, along with the finer points of any reorganization, would likely be ironed out by another committee after the school board makes their choice.

“If you give [seventh and eighth graders] a full high school experience, it would be a lot easier and a lot cheaper,” Joynt said. He also pointed out that “this campus was built for student travel between buildings, not to lock off two floors and not travel between classrooms.”

On the other hand, seventh and eighth graders could be given what Joynt called a “hybrid standard,” where they would still take electives like orchestra and art in the normal high school facilities but otherwise have a more middle-school like experience with, for example, no open lunch.

The third proposal would make Lake Bluff K-4, close Atwater, make SIS 5-7, and put 8th graders into the high school. The committee liked that this proposal would keep middle level students at SIS, “a building designed for middle schoolers,” as Sorenson said, and would thus result in less remodeling costs than the first proposal. Furthermore, with a savings of $534,881, this proposal is the most economical of the three.

Like the second proposal, however, the committee had concerns over whether eighth graders would be treated as full high school students or kept separate.

It was clear that the school board will be faced with a tough decision that could impact the April 6 elections, when board member John Carlton will face three challengers for his seat and one open seat. Sorenson pointed out that all of the current school board members’ children go to or did go to Atwater, and this could affect the board’s decision.

Debate at the meeting at times became heated as committee members struggled with finding a balance between community desires and financial realities while also encountering different priorities.

“800 grand is a lot to lose this year and next year and the year after that… after a while, it doesn’t matter where you went to kindergarten,” said Shorewood parent Rod Washington.

The committee was aware that the closure of any school, especially Atwater, would not be welcomed by the community.

“Every single scenario is going to [anger] somebody,” said Mary Gorman, Lake Bluff science aide and Shorewood parent. “There are going to be 50 people behind every opinion once we bring this to the board.”

“If anyone thinks that they’re going to get out of this without any pain,” Sorenson added, “leave the room now.”

No comments:

Post a Comment