Burlington School District residents and others with an interest in the future of Burlington schools are urged to attend at least one of several community engagement sessions this week regarding the likely realignment of the district.
The meetings, coordinated by district administrators and BLDD Architects, come ahead of a decision the school board must make in the near future about closing a school and realigning attendance centers.
Faced with declining student enrollment, the Burlington School Board reviewed numerous scenarios in which the district's buildings could be better utilized and narrowed it down to three, each of which involve the closure and sale of one elementary school as well as the sale or demolition of the James Madison Education Center. Most JMEC programs will be moved to other school buildings.
"We have 500 fewer kids in our schools than we did four years ago," Superintendent Pat Coen said Friday, explaining part of that loss includes 154 fewer students this year.
The enrollment loss has resulted in below-capacity school buildings with high utility costs, which are paid for using money from the district's general fund. That money, which has lessened due to declining enrollment, could be better spent on other resources, such as staff salaries and benefits.
Corse Elementary School, which costs about $80,000 per year to heat and cool, is the oldest of the district's five elementary buildings and the most likely candidate for closure based on results of a district-wide facility analysis conducted by BLDD Architects.
"The board could close Grimes. The board could close North Hill," Coen said. "The only thing we know so far is that BLDD has identified Corse, that it makes the most sense to close Corse from a financial, maintenance and transportation standpoint."
The closure of one building will mean a realignment of grades throughout the remaining elementary and middle schools.
The following are options the board is considering:
• Four preK through fourth grade elementary buildings; one middle school used for fifth- and sixth-graders and another for seventh- and eighth-grade;
• Two elementary buildings designated for preK through first grade; two elementary buildings for second through fourth grade; one middle school used for fifth- and sixth-graders and another for seventh- and eighth-graders;
• Four preK through fourth grade elementary buildings; and two fifth through eighth grade middle school buildings.
People attending the meetings will be asked to to provide feedback on what was presented to them. Those who do not attend will not be able to complete a survey as not learning about the details would lower the validity of the responses.
"That's why we've encouraged people to come," Coen said.
Those responses will be analyzed for board members to consider as they move forward with the "right-sizing" process.
As board member Dean Vickstrom said, "We make the decision, but you have to live with it."
Upon arriving at the sessions at either Burlington High School or Edward Stone Middle School, people will be organized into groups of about 30 people. People attending a session at BHS are asked to enter the cafeteria through the courtyard doors and gather in the cafeteria until their group is organized and departs to the first station.
Those attending Ed Stone should enter through the main entrance by the flagpole and gather in the cafeteria.
Each group will be rotated through each of three stations about every 15 minutes.
Each session will last about two hours, though people should expect to spend only 45 minutes to an hour there. Human Resources Director Jeremy Tabor will live tweeting about wait times using the Twitter handle @grayhoundnation. Doing so will post the information to the district's Twitter and Facebook pages. If everyone shows up at the same time, it will create a bottleneck and longer wait times.
At the first station, which will be in the BHS gym and Ed Stone's cafeteria, attendees will be presented information about the processes and purposes of the meeting, an explanation as to why the district realignment is being considered and the goals of "right-sizing."
The second station, which will be in the BHS band room and Ed Stone media center, will cover an explanation of the physical needs assessment findings and the choices that have been developed. People also will have the opportunity to ask questions at this station. Feedback, however, should be shared at the third station, which will be in the BHS library and the Ed Stone auditorium.
At the third station, people will be able to give feedback via face-to-face surveys, electronic surveys, and paper and pencil surveys. Participants' names will be recorded to prevent duplicate surveys.
Session times and locations are as follows:
• 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at BHS. Station start times are 6 p.m., 6:15 p.m., 6:30 p.m.; 6:45 p.m.; 7 p.m.; 7:15 p.m.; 7:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.
• Noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at BHS. Station start times are noon, 12:15 p.m.; 12:30 p.m.; 12:45 p.m.; 1 p.m; 1:15 p.m.; 1:30 p.m. and 1:45 p.m.
• 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 29 at Edward Stone. Session start times are 9 a.m.; 9:15 a.m.; 9:30 a.m.; 9:45 a.m.; 10 a.m.; 10:15 a.m.; 10:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.