District 11: Now comes the hard part
After closure action, decisions needed on new boundaries, old staff; some anger lingers on Westside
District 11 has begun moving forward on its School Utilization Plan, including a boundary study (to go to the Board of Education April 8) and reassignments for the
principals at schools that will close (to be announced by March 21, before spring break).
Both efforts will impact the Westside, which is still reeling from a Board of Education action Feb. 25 that will result in four closures and nearly half of this area's 1,500- plus public elementary students going to different schools in August.
While principals at affected schools are working with parents and students on the adjustment (see separate story), rumblings of a possible backlash were coming from parts of the Westside. Welling and Sallie Clark, longtime Westside leaders and business owners, said they have talked to people who share their distaste for the closures (both spoke against it at public hearings, asking for more time to get the community involved), and have even heard about a possible school board recall plan. The Clarks, who had helped develop a study several years ago that resulted in enrollment-increasing “magnet” programs at some of the Westside schools, indicated there might be a way to reverse the board action (although D-11 spokeperson Elaine Naleski said there could be no appeal except on legal grounds).
District boundary and principal decisions for the 2009-10 school year are needed to reflect the closure of four longtime neighborhood elementaries, the move of Buena Vista's Montessori program to the Washington building as a magnet school (no attendance area) and the creation of a new “super elementary” in the current West Middle School, consisting of students from the former Buena Vista (those who are not in Montessori), Washington and Whittier schools.
The boundary study will be led by a 30-member committee (still being selected), consisting of 19 D-11 staff people, 6 parents, 2 community members, 2 city representatives and 1 carryover person from the steering committee that had worked with district administrators on the Utilization Plan. The group will meet Tuesdays into at least mid-April; meanwhile, seven community meetings on boundaries are scheduled, starting Monday, March 9 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at West Middle School (in the media center), 1920 W. Pikes Peak Ave.
Mike Poore, one of the deputy superintendents for D-11, said that, where possible, the principals from the closed schools will stay with their students in 2009-10. A decision has not yet been made on how many principals will be at the West elementary.
Announcements on positions for other staff people from the closed schools will be made by mid-May, Poore said.
The school district expects to realize considerable savings from running fewer schools in years to come, although the budget will be tight in the 2009-10 because of an expected $5 million revenue shortfall and the need to apply much of the savings to costs related to the relocations of students and programs, Poore said.
In a separate interview, D-11 Facilities Director Frank Bernhard elaborated that while the magnet programs may have helped enrollment to some extent on the Westside , it has not been sufficient to make the smaller schools a cost-effective proposition.
Schools not closing on the Westside will also be affected by the Utilization Plan in the upcoming school year. These are:
Farther in the future, the school board vote instructed staff to “develop plans” or “explore” options for school board review at the following Westside schools:
In yet another aspect of the process, the district is looking for new users for its unused facilities. On the Westside, one of these is Pike, built in 1956. A harder sell might be the former Bijou site, in what's left of the original, century-old Bristol (the one-time gymnasium and kindergarten rooms) and some portables at 730 N. Walnut St.
Westside Pioneer article