Concerning School Closures

I have heard a lot of discussion lately about closing schools. The TPC plan specifically targeted 21 schools for closure to save money to the tune of 21 million dollars. I have heard this repeatedly from county commissioners, TPC members, the media, etc.

There has also been some disappointment with how many school have been voted to be closed. 5.

Now while I understand many see dollar signs to cut the budget, I think it is important to remember that I measure decisions regarding education based upon 3 factors:

1) Does it impact educational outcomes long-term?

2) Does it make a process more efficient long-term?

3) Does it do it at the lowest long-term cost?

In the case of closing schools, I think to accomplish the goals above, schools facilities must be looked at in a broader context. While we have those who believe we should cut for short-term financial gain, we do not address long-term sustainability or community impact. Let’s take one example:

Closing Coro Lake Elementary and rezone students to Doubletree and Westwood.

1) Does it impact educational outcomes long-term? It absolutely impacts education outcomes since Coro Lake is in good  standing and we are sending children to a failing school (Westwood) and  Reward School(Doubletree). How would you feel to have your child rezoned to a failing school? Also, we are doing nothing to address the educational program disparity in many of these schools in comparison to their optional counterparts.

2) Does it make a process more efficient long-term? Without a district view, we have no idea.

3) Does it do it at the lowest long-term cost? In this case, no. We would have to bus kids to their new schools. We would have to provide school security at the closed school. Capital degradation occurs due to idle capacity. (This is why the TPC numbers did not jive with the district numbers.) We get about 50% cost recovery.

So the question remains: What is the solution on school closures? I think that the question is much broader than that. I think the right question is:

What is the optimal school formula (school size, education programs, staffing formula) in which we can provide the same educational programs at every school across the district?

Once we determine this formula, then we can create a strategic plan for implementation across the district.The strategic plan could identify locations of schools, the need to close multiple schools, or build new schools, or add-on to existing schools. The goal will be to give back a significantly better school to the community than we close.

Kevin Woods and I have been asked to lead this discussion. It is the right discussion and the right planning.

Closing schools ad hoc to cut costs with no real plan for improving educational outcomes is a travesty that I cannot support.

 

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