12 D-11 utilization options to go before citizens; one would close Midland & West Middle

       District 11 is offering a dozen “considerations” to the public in its latest effort to utilize its schools more efficiently. One of them would have a widespread effect on the Westside by closing two schools and expanding two others.

Joining parents and students, Dr. Nick Gledich (standing, at left), superintendent of District 11, looks at information about the Principled learner during the IB Family Night at Midland Elementary in November 2011. It was one of five IB learner profiles offered (each in a different classroom) at the weeknight event.
Westside Pioneer file photo

       Explanations of the proposals will be provided at six meetings throughout the district between Dec. 5 and 19, with citizen comments taken in each case.
       The Coronado High School auditorium, 1590 W. Filllmore St., will host the meeting Tuesday, Dec. 18 from 6 to 8 p.m.
       The plan titled “Consideration 6” would involve the following:
  • Midland Elementary and West Middle School would close.
  • West Elementary would absorb all the Midland students in taking over the entire building that it now shares with West Middle.
  • The 275 West Middle students would be absorbed by Holmes Middle, which would get an addition to include 10 new classrooms and science/technology labs.
           The other 11 suggested considerations offer various combinations of closures, mergers and/or construction at the district's elementary, middle and/or high school levels, with the overall intent to “optimize utilization at all school sites to increase student achievement,” the D-11 website states.
           Coronado High School's boundaries are affected by other proposed considerations. For example, Considera-tion 2, which suggests closing under-utilized Wasson High (reducing D-11 to four full-service high schools), would extend Coronado's boundaries into the north part of the district east of I-25. Currently, the school's contiguous boundaries are west of I-25, but its attendance area includes detached areas in the northeast whose students are eligible for bussing.
           None of the 12 considerations is currently recommended over any of the others, nor has D-11 announced how many (if any) of them might eventually be OK'd. But under a district timetable, the Board of Education could decide on the matter by February.
           “At each community meeting, the public will have an opportunity to review considerations and provide input and other ideas,” a district press release states. “Each school site has been evaluated, based on capacity and enrollment. Students, families, and tax-paying citizens will be impacted by the outcome of this project; therefore, feedback is highly desired.”

    Consideration 6, which suggests closing West Middle School, would expand the Holmes attendance area to cover most of the district west of I-25.
    Courtesy of District 11

           The 12 consideration options appear in a study called “Optimization of Utilization,” which was presented at a D-11 school board work session Nov. 27. The set of documents was prepared by a committee of community volunteers and district staffers that has been meeting since August, initially with the charge of reconsidering school boundaries.
           The study “provides an opportunity for District 11 to reposition itself for the coming decades: to reinvent and to maximize the use of resources,” the document's Executive Summary states. “Optimization of Utiliza-tion encompasses our rich past, faces our present reality, and envisions our successful reinvention - our future - as the 'heart' of Colorado Springs - Colorado Springs School District 11.”
           The documentation is available on the district website: d11.org. To get information another way, call 520-2005.
           Backup data in the study includes school boundary maps, enrollments over the past several years, percent of school utilization, student poverty status, academic performance, building conditions, capacity, students permitting to other schools and the percent needing transportation at each school.
           In the study's analysis of Consideration 6, a criticism of both Midland and West Middle regards enrollment (less than 275 students each). Midland's numbers have risen from 122 to 170 since becoming the district's only International Bacca-laureate (IB) elementary 10 years ago. But it is still one of the district's smallest schools. Enrollment has been dropping at West in the same span, from 495 to the current 260, study data shows.
           Consideration 6's “primary benefits” are stated as follows:
  • “Optimizes resources.”
  • “Enhances instructional opportunities.”
  • “Reduces operational costs (one less middle school program) will offset one-time construction costs for addition at Holmes.”
           The following is under the column heading “Poten-tial Needs, Problems”:
  • “Need to enhance West Elementary parking, playground, parent dropoff.”
  • “West Elementary: playground, parent dropoff, parking mods, additional play structures needed.”
  • “Funding for addition of classrooms at Holmes.”
  • “Holmes core space, corridor width, parking concerns.”
  • “Losing a perimeter school in Midland.”
           Asked about Considera-tion 6, both Midland Principal Jeremy Cramer and West Middle Principal Clay Gomez noted that the effort has a ways to go.
           “I am curious to see what comes out of the public process,” Cramer said. “This is only 1 of 12 things being considered at this point.”
           “It's not a proposal we haven't heard before [closing West Middle],” Gomez said. “We're keeping our focus, working on the kids we have and giving them the best education we can give. I support the district process.”
           He added the belief that Consideration 6 could not be implemented for the 2013-14 school year because of the time needed to build the addition at Holmes.
           The last District 11 utilization push was four years ago. It culminated in spring 2009 with the closures of three Westside elementaries (Pike, Whittier and Washington), the creation of West Elementary (to share West Middle's building) and the relocations of Buena Vista Elementary and the Bijou alternative high school.
           The other community meetings (all from 6 to 8 p.m.) will be Dec. 5 at Do-herty High, Dec. 10 at Palmer High, Dec. 13 at Tesla Educational Opportun-ity Center, Dec. 17 at Mitchell High and Dec. 19 at Wasson High.
           District spokesperson Devra Ashby said a press conference has been scheduled for Monday, Dec. 3 at 1 p.m., at which D-11 Superintendent Dr. Nick Gledich will present information and answer questions.

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