Key Directions & Decisions About Enrollment Growth to Date
January - February:
The Board held multiple community input meetings to review the demographic study and discuss options for accommodating additional enrollment.
The Board approved Guiding Principles for evaluating facility options for expanding capacity.
The Board voted to provide notice of termination to the current lessee of the O’Connor site, the German American International School (GAIS), enabling the District to move ahead with opening a public elementary school on the O’Connor site.
The Board reviewed alternatives and provided direction that
- the District would plan to bring the O’Connor site on-line as a neighborhood school (e.g. not a choice school) with a grade level configuration that best meets the Guiding Principles,
- the preferred modernization/expansion scope of improvements at O’Connor, and potentially Laurel as well, depending on configuration chosen, would likely be within a cost range that will require new bond funding, and
- planning and construction in the range of the preferred scope would be best accomplished over a three-year time frame where the O’Connor site would open as a District school in the fall of 2016. The Board also directed staff to work with GAIS on a partial year lease extension agreement that the Board could consider for approval if the District moves forward with asking the community to approve a bond measure, allowing GAIS to have additional time at O’Connor while the planning and permitting for construction occurs. The Board also requested that staff engage The Center for Community Opinion (CCO) to conduct focus groups to provide additional input to the Board’s ultimate decision about the amount and timing of a potential bond measure.
Staff presented a comprehensive review of the work to date and presented new information on the costs and benefits of various configuration/modernization/expansion options. The Board discussed 1) the costs and benefits of renovating vs. replacing the existing 10 classroom structure at the O'Connor site, 2) the costs and benefits of providing for a 16 classroom 3-5 facility vs. an 18 classroom K-5 facility at O'Connor, and 3) the need to provide for future flexibility regardless of configuration selected.
Replacing the existing building provides for a better utilization of the site, but is likely to be somewhat more costly. Renovating the existing building is likely to be somewhat less costly, but this will not be known for certain without testing given the age of the building. The costs and benefits of replacing the existing large multipurpose facility at Laurel were also reviewed; it was discussed that even with this additional investment in Laurel’s facilities, the limited field space at Laurel makes it less suited to the needs of older elementary students. Given this, the Board also expressed the desire to limit the scope of improvements to only the O’Connor site at this time; the Board indicated that additional investment in Laurel could still be made in the future if desired by the community. The Board did not make a final decision on grade level configuration, but all other things being equal, the Board expressed a general preference for K-5 schools on a single campus due to 1) the opportunity for daily collaboration between upper and lower grade teachers and students, and 2) a simpler administrative structure, and 3) fewer transitions and more convenience for families.
However, there was much discussion that operating the Laurel and O’Connor sites as a unified K-5 school across two campuses where the Laurel site houses the K-2 students and O’Connor houses the 3-5 students may provide a better overall experience to students given the specific circumstances of the Laurel and O’Connor sites. The reasons for this include 1) the limits to providing comparable facilities for grades 4-5 students at Laurel, 2) the difficulty of providing equitable class sizes and other programs in small schools, 3) the interference with neighborhood cohesion from increased involuntary transfers due to small boundary areas, and 4) the difficulty of maintaining socio-economic balance among schools with small boundary areas. The 3-5 configuration also requires a lower investment in new facilities at O'Connor, but the Board said that the overall experience of students was the primary concern.
The next Board meeting will take place on June 11th. At this meeting, the Center for Community Opinion (CCO) will present preliminary results from the focus group sessions conducted, and staff will present additional cost-benefit analyses requested by the Board, as well as draft ballot language for a potential November bond election. The goal of the June 11 meeting will be to provide final direction to staff on whether and how much to ask the community to support in a November bond election. Should the Board decide on June 11 to move ahead with calling for a November bond election, the actual resolution and ballot language may be voted on as early as the June 17 meeting.
The decision on how best to meet our future challenges will impact all our schools, so it is important for the District to have the entire community involved in this important process. If you are unable to attend the June 11th meeting, input to the Board and Superintendent as a group can be provided via email to email@example.com. Click here for contact information for individual Board members and the Superintendent.