No bad news yet in D-11’s school reconfig

       Early reports from the altered Westside school configuration show enrollment numbers close to last spring's projections and no serious initial problems.

Near the start of an open house for the new West Elementary Aug. 17 (the evening before the first day of school), workers install a banner sign over the designated main entrance at 25 N. 20th St.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The school with the potential for the biggest issues was/is West Elementary, which is a brand-new facility carved into the West Middle School building. However, Principal Terry Martinez said that aside from a one-hour power outage at the start of the opening day, the first couple of days had gone pretty well. Asked about educational problems, he said, “We're tweaking some lunchtime things, and the city is coming by to watch the traffic.”
       The first day, Aug. 18, with numerous cars lining up in front of the school along relatively narrow 20th Street, “it was a little crazy,” he said.
       From his side of the building, West Middle School Principal Clay Gomez said, things have gone “remarkably well, actually.” Responding to public concerns about having grades K-8 in the same building, he said he talked to his grades 6-8 students about it at class-level assemblies. From show-of-hands responses to a question he asked at each assembly, he estimated that close to a third of the middle-schoolers have at least one sibling in the elementary. So he followed this up with the direction to “look on them all as your little brothers and sisters,” he said.
       Last spring, the district had projected enrollment at the new elementary to be about 320 and at the middle school (with a slightly reduced attendance area) at 275. Martinez said his initial count is about 300, and Gomez said his was 287.
       Howbert, Holmes and Jackson have larger attendance areas because of school closures.
       “We're doing great,” said Howbert Principal Gail DeRousse. “It's been a challenge to set up the portable, but the staff pulled it together.”
       The portable, which will handle two classrooms, had been brought over from the old Buena Vista School this summer and placed at the south end of Howbert. She said it will help handle an enrollment of about 40 more students than last year (mainly the result of a boundary change that gave Howbert part of the old Whittier area). “Some grade levels are bigger than others but within District 11 guidelines,” she said.
       Space relief is on the way, in the form of a four-classroom addition that's being built at the north end of the school, with completion planned for second semester.
       Holmes Middle School is absorbing about 110 kids from the Holland Park neighborhood (it used to be in the West Middle School attendance area). Holmes Principal Rob Utter said his school will end up with roughly the same enrollment it had last year (720), but this will probably mean a lower percentage of students permitting in. Some permits had to be put on hold until the start of school because of uncertainty about the attendance area change, he explained.
       In any case, the new students at Holmes seem to be making a “real good transition,” Utter said. He added the expectation that next year, if the attendance-area boundaries don't change again, the enrollment “will be more predictable.”

True to the last-minute nature of the West Elementary opening, a worker (far right) installs a bulletin board while second-grade teacher Denise Gutierrez (wearing lanyard) talks to parents and students in her new classroom during a night-before-school-starts open house/ice cream social at the school Aug. 17.
Westside Pioneer photo

       A smooth transition was also evident at Jackson, which is projected to take in about 75 students from the former Pike Elementary attendance area. The school is using an added portable, as well as one it already had, with a new addition to be completed in January.
       Jackson's starting enrollment was up in general - about 300, compared with 215 last year.

Westside Pioneer article