Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What is the future of these schools?

On the topic of this post, I think a lot of people have lost sight of just how much bigger Hoover is than some of the district’s other schools. Take a look at the capacity figures:

The district no longer has any plans to expand the capacity of any of those schools.

If the district is willing to close Hoover, there is every reason for people in those other attendance areas to be worried about the future of their schools.

I think the district should recognize that its existing schools are worth preserving, that it makes sense to use existing capacity before building expensive additions elsewhere, and that not all schools should be the kind of 600-kid mega-schools that the district is building farther out.


Julie VanDyke said...

Add this to the mix: It’s my understanding that mid to late last week, Shimek parents with children in the Autism Spectrum Special Ed room were TOLD their children's class would be moved to “real Hoover”, for the coming school year. It seems they were not notified the decision had been made in writing, but verbally by the principal in passing.

This is essentially what happened when the Hills Special Ed class was moved with even less the next school year was earlier 3 years ago. In neither instance does it seem all parents were notified by ICCSD District Administration, or school principal, this was under consideration by District Administration prior to verbally by the principals that the decisions had been made. No warning and no prior parent input I had heard in our case.

Notification I received for my son came in a surprise phone call shortly after 3:00pm while I was at work (yes, he knew I was at work) from the Hills principal at that time. He sounded nervous, likely due to what he was to say, then said, Julie you're probably not going to like what I have to tell you... He then said my son, his class, and teacher would be moved Hills Elementary to Horn, effective the next school year (end of that summer). Can you imagine receiving that kind of call at work out of the blue? I was devastated knowing immediately how my son (who is on the Autism Spectrum) would respond to that news and the damage it would do to his ability to focus and perform for the rest of that school year, all 3-4'ish weeks of it or so. That was on top of how devastated I was Hills was our family...not only "just" the kids he was used to going to school with, and I say that with no disrespect or intent to demean the concerns of other parents in other situations, but for us, because we live out in the country, we don't have next door neighbors that would give him peer stability to soothe his loss.

His call came mid-week, and I told the principal I didn’t want to tell my son until Friday give him the weekend to adjust slightly to his grief and was then told I was the last parent to be notified so people would be talking about it the next day at school which then gave me no choice but to tell my son when that day and then send him to school that off balance for the remainder of the week. Can you imagine what that did to my son? Can you imagine what that did to me to have to do that to him? When Mr. Murley called me at home that evening about the situation, at my request, after the principal had called me at work so suddenly and out of the blue, and in tears, sobbing, I asked him, how could you do this to these fragile boys, he actually laughed out loud at me in my grief for my child...and then in the most mocking tone you can imagine he said to me, after laughing, but Julie, don't you know?...that he could do whatever he wanted with those boys because the law allowed him to move them where the resources were. When I later asked why they would subject these fragile boys to not only being ripped out of their school with little notice for this move but that this move would subject them to another as they live in the City High Enrollment area it would mean they would be uprooted again from their peers at Horn in 3 years or so when they moved on to junior high…because Hills and our addresses feed to Southeast Junior High and City High feeding and Horn is a West High feeding Elementary, I was told no one had even thought of that when they were making the decision. Parents input would have addressed that issue.

It appears little has changed in 3 years the District Administration’s process for moving an entire Special Ed classroom from one school to another. I assume Mr. Murley will speak more kindly to Shimek parents than he did me, with Board VP Brian Kirschling's kids at Shimek. I’m disgusted with Administration’s handling of the move of Special Ed classrooms without adequate notice or consideration to the fragile kids and parents they hurt.

Chris said...

Thanks, Julie. I can see how there might be efficiencies in having the autism classrooms together in one place, but it does seem odd that they would take a class out of Shimek, where enrollment is currently under capacity, and move it to Hoover, where enrollment is currently over capacity and there are already two "temporary" buildings. (See enrollment report here.)

Mary Murphy said...

What's odd to me is how capacity numbers have changed. Here are examples from the ICCSD district audit, which you can find at (pp 86-89 of the audit itself).

Hoover 330 in 2005 to 437 in 2014

Longfellow 308 in 2005 to 391 in 2014

Shimek 242 in 2005 to 276 in 2014

Mann 286 in 2005 to 345 in 2014

Hills 220 in 2005 to 276 in 2014

Lincoln 220 in 2005 to 253 in 2014

I would not want to see the capacity of the smaller walkable schools taken down so as to further justify closing them later and building more capacity on the perimeter of the district.

And I'm going to add Borlaug, a relative new school which is listed on the ICCSD audit as having a capacity of 552 in 2013 and 2014 and then the status quo listed Borlaug as having a capacity of 451. When it was originally built, I recall being told that Borlaug was built to house 500 students. Perhaps capacity changes when different architectural/design firms examine capacity?

Chris said...

Thanks, Mary. I knew that the district had been using much larger capacity numbers (basically, 23 * number of classrooms) before the facilities planning process, but I didn't realize that there had been an even earlier set of numbers in 2005.

The high-end capacity figures do seem too high to me. I do suspect that 304 for Hoover is an "ideal-world" capacity, and that you could fit more students there before it would become truly overcrowded.

But yes, it would be nice if there were more transparency to the way the district comes up with these numbers.

Julie VanDyke said...

Chris, what is odd is that they move children with behavioral focus needs, which seems to be where they dump children with high functioning autism along with other random diagnoses with difficulty surviving in gen ed classrooms, and children on the autism spectrum who need more significant assistance without adequate planning and consideration to the potentially dangerous impact it will have and without parent input prior to making that administrative decision is insane.

Children on the autism spectrum require consistent routines, structure, and stable systems for quality of life in order to function at all. Disruption in their routines causes them anything from loss of focus to total meltdown along with a great deal of anxiety. It takes a long time for them to adjust. The stress can even cause elopement and thus put them in danger. One does not just disrupt the established routines of children with autism lightly. I don't want real Hoover to close, but if it does that means these kids would get moved again in like 2 years. That they would just shove many of the most vulnerable, extremely sensitive children in the district around like this, with little thought to their well-being or any form of visible planning and engagement with their parents prior to decision making, when it will actually cause these children harm, is unconscionable. Moving children in Gen Ed classes around like chess pieces is already done poorly enough that it's distressing, but what they're doing to the most delicately balanced children is simply unacceptable. The way this district is moving children around like it's a for-profit business, it sometimes appears to me that pushing people to the point of open enrolling out must be a district goal. Public education is not a private sector business venture, which isn't to say it shouldn't be fiscally responsible, but I'd like to see more fiscal responsibility within the actions of the administration itself before it takes it out on the children to save a dime.