I am responding to the article regarding the School Board’s discussion about the fate of West Elementary School. I attended the meeting and was sincere in stating to the board that I appreciate their work, especially given the difficult job ahead of them which will have a ripple effect for the next generation. Should West close, it will impact the lives of parents and children in the neighborhood in myriad ways, including such things as transportation to/from school, disruption in routine, and most importantly – depending on class-size – the children’s learning. While I learned a great deal at the School Board meeting Monday evening, I’m afraid that I’ve always been that pesky student who has more questions for the “teachers.” That said, I think the answers to the following questions would be helpful for all of us as we move forward on a decision that will forever change the fabric of this north end neighborhood:
● When was the last city data collected for the West neighborhood? (Since August, my neighbors and I have seen an uptick in families with young children.)
● What percentage of homeowners within the West boundary are 65 or older? (Relevant due to seniors downsizing or moving out of state upon retirement, thus making their home available for sale to young families seeking affordable housing)
● When were the school lines redrawn?
● If they had not been redrawn, what would the West enrollment be? And what would enrollment be at the other north-end schools?
● Are the pre-k students in special education at West included in the total of 89 enrolled? If not, why not?
● Has the disruption to the lives of the children with special needs enrolled at West been figured into the proposal to close the school? Routine is such a critical piece for children with special needs.
● Can the Herald print a copy of Mr. Palmiscino’s timeline of the funding deficits? It was quite informative.
● Since we all seem to acknowledge that small class size is preferred for teaching/learning (not to mention minimizing social anxiety and bullying), if West students were divvied up how would their numbers impact Winship, Wilder, and Lake Agassiz (assuming that’s where they would be sent)?
● Has anyone looked at which grades, hypothetically, would exceed the state defined threshold per class?
● What is the student threshold for when a new class must be added per grade?
● Can we get a rough estimate of what these numbers would look like in these classrooms?
● Could these classrooms physically accommodate a substantial increase in students? Are there unused rooms in these schools that could be repurposed for classrooms should the threshold per class be reached?
Further, if there is actually an uptick in young families moving into the north end, when we project five years down the road, would these smaller schools still be able to accommodate, say a 5% increase in enrollment, or would we be looking at shutting down more schools in order to build one larger one? In other words, is relocating West students going to accelerate or instigate the closing of other schools?
● If we were to ask for a referendum to cover all the deferments, what would the homeowner’s portion be over 10 years or 20 years?
● If we close West, what happens to the other buildings that have deferred building maintenance? Do we ignore them? If we address them, where do we get that funding from?
● Is this statement in the GF Herald correct? “In addition to being outdated, the school has problems with ventilation, leading to stagnant air district officials say has caused teachers and students to be chronically sick.” If it has been identified as fact, were parents made aware of the poor air quality in the school before the Herald article?
I apologize if the “student” has assigned “homework” to the board, but I and others would appreciate a greater understanding before our neighborhood is irreversibly altered.
Kathleen Coudle-King is a parent of West alumni and a 30-year resident of the West neighborhood.