Westside school closures not singled out in report to board

       Closures of three Westside schools are not included in recommendations to the School District 11 Board of Education from the Long Range School Use Study (LRSUS) Task Force.
       This is no guarantee, however, that the board won't consider the option - proposed by one of the three LRSUS subcommittees - when it takes up the LRSUS report at its March 31 meeting.
       The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the district's Administration Building at 1115 N. El Paso St.
       The LRSUS Task Force, numbering some 50 volunteer members with staff support, was directed by the school board last Septem-ber to develop a long-range master plan for school buildings in the district.
        The group's Utilization Subcommittee, seeking more efficient ways to make use of existing buildings, found that some schools in the district have too many students and some not enough and the district could save about $700,000 a year by selling or “reusing” school buildings with low enrollments. The impact on the Westside in such a case would “consolidate” students at Pike, Whittier and Ivywild into other local schools.
       However, the LRSUS Capital Improvements Subcommittee countered that proposal with a finding that small schools can lead to more effective teaching, especially in less affluent areas. Even at maximum capacity, the Westside's elementary schools are among the smallest in the district.
       The LRSUS Task Force as a whole worked to reach a consensus on these differing philosophies in weekly meetings between Feb. 26 and March 18.
       The group agreed on its final report/recommendations “with no dissension” at its March 18 meeting, according to District 11 spokesperson Elaine Naleski.
       While no specific schools are identified for closure in the report, it contains a “summary of findings” that states: “The district needs to address school utilization issues in the elementary and high school levels. These issues include both over and under- utilization of school capacity in different regions of the district.”
       Elsewhere in the report is a general call to “improve the effective and efficient use of the district's school resources through a series of selected school additions and consolidations (and) reassess the distribution of students in schools throughout the district and make changes accordingly.”
       Also included in the LRSUS report are the following recommendations:
       * To “better manage future capital renewal needs with recurring funding,” as a result of “serious backlog of capital renewal needs” in district buildings.
       * To build new northeast and southeast elementary schools and add capacity at Doherty High School.
        * To install air-conditioning in all schools
       * To improve facilities and technology infrastructure as well as science curriculum facilities.
        * To correct traffic problems at “multiple schools.”
       Overall costs were not addressed in the report; however, subcommittee reports have shown the need for extra money up front. For instance, the $700,000 annual savings from school consolidations would be offset by up-front costs of nearly $20 million to build new schools and put additions on others (including two classrooms at Howbert). The word “Bond?” appears on one page in the report that discusses capital projects.
       Only the master plan is scheduled for discussion March 31. A five-year capital plan with prioritized projects, coming out of the master plan, is scheduled to be presented to the Board of Education at its May 12 meeting.

Westside Pioneer article