If the district closes Hoover, adds 330 seats to Longfellow and Mann, and follows through on the other parts of its long-term facilities plan, here is what the capacities of the elementary schools will be:
Look at the lower end. Three schools will be outliers: Shimek, Hills, and Lincoln. (Twain has apparently been slated for an expansion of its capacity.) If this plan comes to pass, I have to believe that the pressure to close Hills, Shimek, and Lincoln will be unstoppable.
This is especially true if we overbuild and end up with lots of empty, brand-new capacity – which the plan is practically designed to do, given that it’s based on unrealistically low capacity determinations and high-end enrollment projections.
If we have lots of empty capacity, who better to fill those new seats at Longfellow and Mann than the kids at Lincoln and Shimek? Who better to fill a southeast-side elementary than the kids at Hills? How can the district justify keeping old, small schools open if there is shiny new capacity sitting empty?
City High’s advocates, including its principal, have repeatedly expressed a desire to ensure that City not lose the wealthier areas in Lincoln and Shimek during any redistricting. That desire would create added momentum for closing those schools and sending the kids to Mann and Longfellow, putting those areas at City High once and for all.
If the community wants to move toward having fewer, newer, bigger elementary schools – farther, on average, from where people live – that would be one way to do it. But that idea hasn’t come from any public demand. In fact, at every opportunity, the public has rejected that approach and affirmed its desire to keep its existing schools open.
Yet school closures appeared in almost all of the planning scenarios. Board candidate Sara Barron, who served as a member of the facilities steering committee, said that the continual inclusion of school closures in the scenarios – an idea she opposed – seemed “pre-ordained.” By whom?
The public gets only one opportunity every two years to reclaim ownership of the school system and demand fidelity to the community’s values. One of them is coming this Tuesday. This may be the last chance to stop the fewer/newer/bigger train from leaving the station. The candidates who are on board for the facilities plan, including the closure of Hoover, are Karla Cook, Brian Kirschling, and Jason Lewis. The candidates who present the best opportunity to reverse the school closing momentum are Phil Hemingway, Gregg Geerdes, and Sara Barron. Please vote.