Teachers, parents and community members on Wednesday took advantage of the opportunity to provide feedback on three “right-sizing” options being considered for the Burlington School District, as well as put forth their own suggestions, during the first of three community sessions to be held on the subject.
People attending the sessions made their way through three stations manned by district administrators and representatives from BLDD Architects, a firm with which the district has been working to analyze possible courses of action it can take to get ahead of money lost by declining enrollment, where they received information about why the school board is considering closing an elementary school building, what those options are and were able to give feedback.
Aside from doing nothing, attendees were informed of three options the school board is considering to coincide with closing an elementary building and the James Madison Education Center:
• Scenario 1: Create four preschool through fourth-grade buildings, use one middle school building for fifth- and sixth-graders and the other for seventh- and eighth-graders. This is the second-most cost-effective option.
• Scenario 1A: four preschool through fourth-grade buildings and move fifth-graders into the middle school buildings with sixth, seventh and eighth grades;
• Scenario 2: Use North Hill and Grimes for preschool through first grade, Sunnyside and Black Hawk for second through fourth grade, one middle school building for fifth and sixth grades and the other for seventh and eighth grade. This is the most cost-effective option.
School board president Bryan Bross, who, along with other board members, conducted surveys of attendees in the school library, said at least two more possibilities were suggested to him and that those possibilities as well as other suggestions and concerns made via the surveys will be taken into consideration by the school board. He also was asked several questions related to the options presented.
"We've had some feedback about which buildings maybe are better than other buildings from a cost of maintenance and operation perspective ... There's been questions about whether fifth-graders should be in the same building as eighth-graders," he said. "The staff have some insights that we don't have as a board ... and then we're going to have the community come in and they're going to give us a different perspective because they're mostly thinking as parents, so we're going to get a broad perspective."
The option of putting fifth-graders in the same building as eighth-graders was unpopular among several people who attended the session, one for staff and another for community members.
Sandy Miller, an office clerk at Corse Elementary School, which is the most likely candidate for closure given its operation costs, was uncomfortable with having fifth- and eighth-graders in the same building.
“I just don’t like the idea of putting fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in one building,” she said.
Not everyone disliked the idea, however, as it would mean fewer transition years and fewer stops when dropping off and picking up children. Jesse Ralphs, whose 4-year-old child attends North Hill Elementary School, most favored option 1A.
"I think it keeps the kids in groupings," he said.
Savannah Hanlin, who teaches ninth grade math at BHS, said she like different aspects of two scenarios.
"As a teacher, I favor scenario two, because we can get kids in the north community and the south community, they can all kind of see each other and gradually go into one school, but as a parent scenario, we would like scenario 1A just because we would have less kids in different schools," she said.
Melissa Carlson, a science teacher at Edward Stone Middle School, feels a more suitable solution would be to redistribute prekindergarten through fifth-grade students from whichever school closes to the remaining four elementary buildings.
Samuel Johnson of BLDD Architects explained given enrollment trends, not making any changes to the middle schools would result in the buildings being underutilized in the future.
The next "right-sizing" session will be from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at BHS. The third and final session will be from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday at Edward Stone.