It's Official! (For Now): Seven Elementary Schools
At last night’s Board of Education meeting, the “Resolution to Approve the Superintendent’s Recommendation to Maintain Operations of Seven Elementary Schools” was passed on its second reading, with four Board members in attendance (Linda Beebe was out of town) making it official that all seven of our elementary schools are staying open.
Last Spring, one of Superintendent Patterson’s recommendations was to close one of our seven elementary schools to save money, with the announcement of which one to be made in August. A promise that went along with this plan was that he’d study the situation over the summer to determine which school should be closed, examining the data of where students live, how many would be affected by specific schools closing and the capacities of the remaining schools.
What he found changed his recommendation. Lakewood’s population of young children has increased significantly, to the degree that closing a school “at this point in time” does not make sense.
While many parents were pleased with Mr. Patterson’s decision that preserved neighborhood schools, many of these same parents didn’t feel secure that this decision was official, so the passage of this resolution should make us rest easier.
The Resolution is short and simple. Its language makes it clear that the decision is based on the significant increase in the population of young children in Lakewood, and increased enrollment.
As for the question of whether this decision is permanent, it sounds like as long as enrollment stays up, our schools will stay open. If our enrollment drops significantly, this issue will come up again.
The resolution has a provision for keeping 7 schools "until such time that the District completes Phase Three of the School Facilities Master Plan"-- which will occur "when state funding becomes available..”
The resolution also provides for home rule: Seven schools "… until such time that the District determines that classroom space exists to reduce by one the number of buildings.."
The Resolution does not state how this determination would be made—in the event that our student population decreases-- but Mr. Patterson’s methodology has worked very well thus far. If a building is to be closed to save money, the District presumably can determine which building’s closing would save the most money, along with the other significant factors Mr. Patterson considered this summer: where students live, how many would be affected by specific schools closing and the capacities of the remaining schools.
Right now, it’s official, we have seven elementary schools. "We don't have enough room even if we squeezed everybody in. If you saw the numbers, it's a no brainer," Mr. Favre said.
There are those who insist that this increase is "a bubble" that won't last, and others who are convinced that the increase shows no signs of stopping and is indeed the "second baby boom"-- the grandchildren of the first baby boomers. "I think it's the real deal," Mr. Favre said. "I don't believe that this is an anomaly."
He made it clear that closing a school is a move that must receive the most serious consideration, given the disruption it could cause. “This is the kind of decision we need to be way out in front of,” he said.