Sunday, July 23, 2017

The future of Hills Elementary

One of the primary themes of the district’s bond proposal is “facilities equity”—the idea that your school facility shouldn’t be so different from those elsewhere in the district that it impacts your child’s educational experience. At the elementary level, this has included the idea that every school ought to have a separate gym and cafeteria, which not all currently do. Because of this emphasis on equity, by the time the bond-funded projects are completed, every elementary school in the district will have a separate gym and cafeteria.

Except one: Hills Elementary. Hills, which has one room that serves both purposes, and which will have eight temporary rooms this year, was conspicuously left out of the bond proposal. Instead, the board majority put Hills on a separate list of “future needs” that are not included in the bond proposal. That list includes an item for adding a gymnasium and art and music rooms to Hills at an estimated cost of $2.5 million.

Our administration has told us that there are only so many projects that the district can run at any given time; that’s why the facilities projects are spread out over years rather than all done simultaneously. So if a project is not included in the bond, which covers all the projects in the facilities plan through 2023-24, there is no reason to think that it can be added to the plan until after 2023-24, even if the funding materializes. And, of course, anything that is not included in the bond proposal could not happen without its own funding source (such as a possible second bond proposal in the future).

Actually, there are two elementary schools in the district that will not have a separate gymnasium and cafeteria by the time the bond-funded projects are completed: Hills Elementary and Hoover Elementary (which, of course, the district is planning to close and tear down). The “future needs” list, where the Hills project now appears, is also where the board put the renovations to TREC (the former Roosevelt Elementary), after the superintendent told us that he’d prefer to close the TREC building and thus hopes to be able to cancel those renovations altogether.

Hoover and Roosevelt are not the company that Hills wants to be in. The Hills community has good reason to worry about the district’s commitment to that school—especially since the district has floated multiple proposals to close Hills in recent years.

Continued here.


Anonymous said...

Why do the smaller elementary schools need a gym separate from the cafeteria? A separate gym isn't an academic need. Seems like we're getting into wants not needs here.

Anonymous said...

Great point. It could be never ending equity pursuit. The cafeterias in the newer elementary schools that do have a gym and a cafeteria have cafeterias that are typically very small. This requires the lunch period at the largest schools to go from about 10:45 til 1:30. Perhaps those newer schools with small cafeterias will "need" a second smaller gym added to them so they can actually get lunch done in a reasonable period of time like the older (and smaller schools) that get a second gym added to them.

I think the art and music rooms aren't needs either. Seems like a way to build capacity that isn't needed which will allow them to close schools they will find a need to close in about 2-3 years when state funding drops to a level where it becomes really difficult to operate so many small schools. Seems like they would rather close them than pair them to gain the efficiency needed to operate with today's funding allocations from the state.