Pike supporters make case to school board
But no indications how vote will go May 7
A non-committal District 11 Board of Education listened April 23 to over an hour of reasons why Pike Elementary is a quality school that should remain open.
They varied from long-time Pike teacher Gwen Robinson, who described the largely lower-income school as “the embodiment of the district's goal to serve all children of all abilities,” to three-generation Pike parent Alice Arment, who lauded the individual attention that's led to an academic uplift, to young parent Christina Flores, whose son had been in trouble at his previous school and now, she said, “I'm amazed at how good a student he has become.”
The Westside school's parents and staff will find out at the board meeting Wednesday, May 7 how convincing they were. That's when the board, which had scheduled April 23 as a non-action public hearing, is slated to vote on the matter.
On the table is a recommendation from Superin-tendent Terry Bishop to close the 52-year-old elementary because even at full enrollment, it's the smallest in the district with about 125 students. That size makes it inefficient to keep open, a “Position Paper” from Bishop states. The Bijou School (an alternative high school) would move into the vacant Pike building, the paper recommends.
Coming up Monday, April 28 is a district-hosted “community meeting,” during which residents can talk to D-11 administrators about the school-closing plan. That meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at Pike, 2510 N. Chestnut St.
In all, 16 people spoke to the board April 23 about Pike, none in favor of Bishop's plan. Loud applause broke out after almost every speaker finished, indicating that the audience of more than 100 people in the Tesla School auditorium included a large number of Pike supporters.
The speakers were generally prepared, non-repetitive and kept the focus on positive aspects of the school. Having met twice last week to coordinate a strategy, each speaker covered a different topic, including neighborhood impacts, activities, grants, academic performance, financial issues and personally gratifying experiences.
But they also threw in some hard questions, such as those from parent Talise Harrington: What will happen to the roughly $700,000 in taxpayer-approved bond-issue funds for repairs at the current Bijou facility at 730 N. Walnut St.; how much will it cost to renovate Pike to handle students of high school age; how much to move the Pike students to different schools (Jackson, Bristol and Howbert); and what is the anticipated growth of Bijou?
Because of the format of the meeting, the board did not ask staff to provide answers, although a board member said out loud, “Good questions.”
Also dubious about the D-11 staff plan was Lyman Kaiser, a past D-11 school board president, although he focused his points on the readiness of Jackson to handle so many new students (about half the Pike kids would go there). The school already uses portable classrooms, and this would be even more necessary with the greater enrollment, he noted. He recommended either bussing the Pike students a little farther (to Chipeta, which has more space), or to delay Pike's closure for a year to allow time to build an addition to Jackson.
Perhaps the most stirring comments of the evening came from parent Jennifer Chavez, who told how she and her husband had decided to enroll their children at Pike because they liked the way it operated, even though it wasn't the school in their neighborhood. Then, last year, her husband died, and since then she has had to move, change jobs and carry on as a single mother. “I feel like I'm up in the air and still waiting to come down,” Chavez said, fighting back tears. “The only thing that remained stable was Pike.”
Pike Principal Manuel Ramsey attended the hearing, but only to listen. Asked afterward how he felt hearing so much praise for his school, the fifth-year principal said,”I'm pleased that we've done a good enough job to get this many people out.”
Westside Pioneer article