Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Should Hoover be closed so Mann and Longfellow can become dramatically larger?

Today I heard via email of a parent at Mann School who supports the proposal to increase the capacity of that school by 76%, so I can no longer make the statement I made last night that I have yet to hear of people in the Mann community who support the addition. I continue to question how widespread that sentiment is, though, especially if people know that the additions are coming at the expense of closing a school elsewhere. This particular Mann parent had written to the school board last night to express her disagreement with me, stating that “it is imperative that individuals not attack other schools.” That prompted this response from me:

I’m the person who spoke at the meeting last night and said that I haven’t heard families from the Mann and Longfellow neighborhoods and attendance areas say that they wanted to dramatically increase the number of kids at those schools (as opposed to just getting needed renovations like air conditioning and multi-purpose rooms).

I appreciate hearing about someone in Mann’s attendance area who wants the addition. But I wanted to get in touch with you just to say that I do not think that I am “attacking” Mann or Longfellow by questioning the additions and by questioning whether they have the support of those communities.

The only reason those additions are necessary is that the district is closing someone else’s neighborhood school. When Mann was in danger of being closed, I saw Mann parents speaking at board meetings about the importance of preserving existing schools and the neighborhoods they serve. I agreed with those parents, and I was (and still am) against closing Mann or any of the district’s existing schools. I’m also completely in favor of making the improvements at those schools that were part of Scenario 1c, such as adding air conditioning and multi-purpose rooms.

But by closing Hoover and adding almost the same number of seats to Longfellow and Mann, the district is essentially consolidating three schools into two big schools. I don’t see how it helps the kids at Mann to bring 180 more kids in, or how it makes it a better school, or how it benefits those schools’ neighbors. As I see it, it is simply a plan to close a school and move toward having fewer, larger, farther-away-on-average elementary schools. I don’t think there is majority public support for that approach. The scenarios that included those additions (which were always accompanied by school closings) were not popular at the community workshops. In any event, by questioning that idea – because I want to keep all our existing schools open – I certainly don’t mean to “attack” either of those schools.

I’d be very interested to talk with you or anyone at Mann or Longfellow about the long-term plan. I think the school board should make a real effort to survey those communities to see how they feel about adding so many more kids to those schools. If it’s true that those communities support the additions, that would be important to know. I might even be persuaded that those particular expansions make sense. But I hope you’ll understand that, to a Hoover family, it’s hard to see how those additions (as opposed to just the necessary improvements) aren’t just the district’s way of closing Hoover School.

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