Ivywild principal struggles with ripple effect of closure talk
Pike, Whittier glad to be left off this year’s list

       Ivywild Principal Libby Bailey calls the suggestion that her school might need to be closed a “tremendous blow.”
       Meanwhile, the principals of Pike and Whittier elementaries - which last year were candidates for closure - believe being left off the list this year indicates their efforts to upgrade their schools are bearing fruit.
       The Ivywild situation is to be discussed as a non-action item at the next Board of Education meeting Wednes-day, April 13, according to Glenn Gustafson, chief financial officer for the district. He has recommended the board consider closing Ivywild, as well as two other schools farther east based on five main criteria - academic scores, enrollment levels, building use, capital needs and cost to run the school.
       A first-year principal, Bailey said in a recent interview she objected to academic scores being used as a criterion, because they were from last year. “I haven't been given an opportunity to show our scores for this year,” she said, adding her belief that they have been improving.
       She noted that one board member, Eric Christen, had “said he thought schools needed new staff and curriculum to succeed. That's what we have here, with a curriculum in its infancy, and we need to give it time to work.”
       Shortly after Gustafson's presentation to the board, parents took “three of our top students out of school,” Bailey said, and another is slated to change schools after the semester.
       She described the closure suggestion as “a tremendous blow. It's also a huge blow to staff morale. We have an extremely strong team here. I have never seen people work together as they do at Ivywild.”
       Bailey fears a further ripple effect during the school's annual Kinder-garten Roundup (an open house for families with youngsters in the attendance area) April 7-8. “With this (potential closure) looming, I wonder about the participation,” she said.
       Worse for her cause, Bailey's proposal to eliminate Ivywild's grades 6-8 has not met with encouragement from the district. She thinks the idea is solid - there are only about 25 students in those two grades, their achievement is low and they might respond to “more opportunities,” such as a sports program, if they were transferred to a regular middle school (probably West). However, moving those students concerns Gustafson, who already sees Ivywild as under-utilized at roughly 140 students in grades K-8.
       Bailey said she is attempting to be “proactive” rather than “reactive” to the situation. Among her actions are “continuing conversations with District 11” and plans to schedule a meeting with Ivywild-area residents to discuss the implications of not having a neighborhood school in that south-of-downtown area.
       Gustafson said his presentation was a follow-up to the Long Range School Use (LRSUS) Task Force report of last year, which stated that Ivywild, Pike and Whittier have shown low attendance and low performance, relative to the rest of the district, for years.
       “It's not about money,” he told the Pioneer. “It's how best to serve these kids. If their schools are underperforming and underutilized, then it is obviously imperative that we look at those schools for other potential uses.”
       Other Westside schools were not considered for closure/reuse because of their proximity to the Gold Hill Mesa development, which is just getting started and expected to produce some 1,000 homes over the next several years. “we can't really touch the Westside because of Gold Hill Mesa,” Gustafson said. “There's not enough room in all those schools for the enrollment we're projecting (from that development).”
       Marlys Berg, who is in her first full year as principal at Whittier, thinks that when the current year is taken into account, the district will see clear improvement. “Our scores are good,” she said, and attendance is up, with 25 more students this year. “I think Whittier is starting to make some really good gains,” she added.
       Manuel Ramsey, in his second year at Pike, said he's relieved he doesn't have to fight a closure recommendation again. His goal is “putting 100 percent of my effort into creating the most productive environment possible for the kids,” he said, “and I don't want to go to meetings and talk about closures.”
       He believes his school's effort will be evident in “great CSAP scores” for Pike this year. “If not, we'll have to change things,” he said.

Westside Pioneer article