Among the most difficult decisions a school division has to make occurs when the trailers start going up and it’s obvious there no longer will be enough classrooms in the school building for all students.
Many of the options when enrollments exceed capacity can be costly. Building additions or constructing a new school can impact a budget by millions of dollars. No one welcomes more trailers or increases in class sizes. Parents are reluctant to see their child shifted to another school that has space available even when their current school is overcrowded.
I’ve had the opportunity over the past few months to see all of these issues play out up close and personal in my role as the chair of a community advisory committee. Our committee has been looking at redistricting options that could affect four of our elementary schools. The experience has been illuminating (I’ve learned a lot), rewarding (We’ve had some excellent ideas from parents) and enjoyable (We’ve become good friends and we’re making progress).
What’s impressed me the most is the willingness of our volunteers to resist the overwhelming temptation to look at redistricting strictly from their own interests. Our volunteers, instead, have been very serious about doing what’s best for students and families throughout the division.
Committee members have been industrious in developing hard data points for future enrollment; they have been thoughtful about the impact of various options on neighborhoods and they have been very empathetic about how the transfers of students would affect programs and services.
In short, the volunteers have us focused on what’s important. That’s been proven in the public meetings we’ve held on whether and how we should redistrict families to different schools next fall. Speakers have reminded us of the importance of maintaining services for special education students, of the value of after-school programs funded by local community service organizations that could be impacted and of how highly they value the teachers and staff in their current schools.
The committee will make its recommendations to the Superintendent this month and the School Board will make a decision early next year. The good news is that all of our schools provide outstanding programs and services to students. The even better news is that parent and community volunteers and speakers have brought tremendous value to the decision-making process. I’m convinced we’ll find the right solutions for our students and their families as a result.
– Josh Davis, Chief Operating Officer