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Thread: The timing of when to reconfigure the elementary schools

  1. #1
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    Default The timing of when to reconfigure the elementary schools

    This is a response to comments posted on the Town Crier discussion boards.

    John Flaherty sets up a number of "either-or" choices that don't allow for a middle ground:

    • Should our sports fees be “among the highest” or should they be THE highest?
    • Do we want to not “price students out of sports” or keep all of our schools open?
    • Do we want to not “micromanage every cost in every activity and department,” or have to close a school because we’re not?


    It's important to keep in mind that we aren't closing an elementary school. Rather, we are reconfiguring them in response to declining enrollment. Since the debate "high ground" seems to be most easily captured by those who claim "spin" first, I'll assert that "reconfiguring, not closing" isn't spin at all, but rather an accurate reflection of what's happening. "Closing" is spin.

    Keeping all schools open in their current configuration isn't an all or nothing tradeoff against athletic fees or budget micro-management. Instead, we need to keep an appropriate balance. In my opinion, maintaining class sizes throughout the district and preserving co-curricular programs is an appropriate balance. And responsibly exploring and challenging the budget doesn't require the logistically impractical act of discussing each and every one of the thousands of school budget line items.

    While there's no certainty that the schools would have reconfigured for fall 2009, that seems to me the direction that we were heading. As it is, in the fall of 2008, we'll have all classrooms filled at Claypit Hill and Happy Hollow, with a capacity based on class size of approximately 88% at CH and 92% at HH (the final numbers may vary, perhaps closing the gap).

    In the fall of 2009, we project similar capacities, but with the possibility of 2 empty classrooms at each of CH and HH. My multi-part question, then, is as follows.

    Q: For those who contend that the reconfiguration happened one year early relative to enrollment (temporarily setting aside the question of whether there was enough time to make and/or implement the "which half school" decision), when should the reconfiguration have taken place? Fall 2009? Or later? If we stay within the class size policy, how many empty classrooms do we need in each building to make reconfiguration appropriate?
    Last edited by Jeff Dieffenbach; 03-29-2008 at 04:15 PM. Reason: Typo: omitted word

  2. #2
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    "reconfiguring, not closing"

    You say pot-A-to, I say pot-ah-to. Call it reconfiguration if it makes you feel better, it's a closing to the 425 students who presently attend the school and to all of their families.
    The fact that the building will remain open for a different purpose is inconsequential. None of the 425 kids who go there are welcome back next year and all of them will need to go elsewhere. That is a closing.

    "While there's no certainty that the schools would have reconfigured for fall 2009, that seems to me the direction that we were heading."

    Here's what you said a year ago:
    “We’re probably at least 3-5 years away from having to make a closure due to enrollment needs…this year’s kindergarten class was 30 or 40 more than was anticipated…”

    A question about this:
    "a capacity based on class size of approximately 88% at CH and 92% at HH"
    What does this percentage represent?
    Why was it stated by a parent that based on the DOE's numbers we would be at 104% capacity at HH?

    "when should the reconfiguration have taken place? Fall 2009? Or later?"
    This is easy.
    A reconfiguration should take place once all of the necessary supporting data has been gathered and assimilated into a comprehensive plan, where a clear choice could be made and where a palatable and airtight explanation could be communicated to the community in such a way that they would quickly see its benefits and come on board with it right away.

    The declining enrollment myth is another bone of contention for me.
    When I’ve asked, I’ve been told that it’s not just this year or next that the enrollment has been declining, but that it’s been going on for 7 years.

    So, I went back and compared the 7 years leading up to the 1980 closing of Loker to the 7 years leading up to today’s closure. From 1973 – 1980, there was a decline of 653 students in Wayland’s K-5 schools, representing a 41.5% decline in enrollment. From 2001 – 2008, there was a decline of 206 students, representing a 15% decline in enrollment.

    It is also worth noting that when Loker reopened in 1992, there were fewer students enrolled then, than there are today. So somehow, having 1081 student enrolled in 1992 warranted 3 schools, yet our 1213 today only requires us to keep 2 ½ schools open.

  3. #3
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    Default School reconfiguration

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    "While there's no certainty that the schools would have reconfigured for fall 2009, that seems to me the direction that we were heading."

    Here's what you said a year ago:
    “We’re probably at least 3-5 years away from having to make a closure due to enrollment needs…this year’s kindergarten class was 30 or 40 more than was anticipated…”
    I stand by the 3-5 year statement. At present, our enrollment projections for the next 4 years show numbers sufficient to warrant keeping all 3 elementary schools open. Beyond that 4 year horizon, the projections become more speculative, but still don't make closure of a building obvious.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    A question about this:
    "a capacity based on class size of approximately 88% at CH and 92% at HH"
    What does this percentage represent?
    Why was it stated by a parent that based on the DOE's numbers we would be at 104% capacity at HH?
    I tried locating the Department of Education capacity numbers, but had no luck. If you have a reference to them, I'd be interested in seeing it. The 88%/92% capacity numbers are arrived at by looking at the expected enrollment relative (see the bottom of page 2 here) to the class size policy. Taking HH grade 3 as an example, there will be 4 sections "capped" at 23 students each by the class size policy, for a total of 92 seats. The 87 students therefore represent 95% capacity (87/92).

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    "when should the reconfiguration have taken place? Fall 2009? Or later?"
    This is easy.
    A reconfiguration should take place once all of the necessary supporting data has been gathered and assimilated into a comprehensive plan, where a clear choice could be made and where a palatable and airtight explanation could be communicated to the community in such a way that they would quickly see its benefits and come on board with it right away.
    This answer is akin to saying "never," as the closeness of the comparison between Happy Hollow and Loker rules out a "clear choice" with a "palatable and airtight explanation."

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    The declining enrollment myth is another bone of contention for me.
    When I’ve asked, I’ve been told that it’s not just this year or next that the enrollment has been declining, but that it’s been going on for 7 years.

    So, I went back and compared the 7 years leading up to the 1980 closing of Loker to the 7 years leading up to today’s closure. From 1973 – 1980, there was a decline of 653 students in Wayland’s K-5 schools, representing a 41.5% decline in enrollment. From 2001 – 2008, there was a decline of 206 students, representing a 15% decline in enrollment.

    It is also worth noting that when Loker reopened in 1992, there were fewer students enrolled then, than there are today. So somehow, having 1081 student enrolled in 1992 warranted 3 schools, yet our 1213 today only requires us to keep 2 ½ schools open.
    I don't understand why enrollment that's been declining for 7 years, and is projected to decline for at least the next 4 years, is a myth.

    I wasn't in Wayland in 1992, but imagine that the reopening was done based on the projected coming enrollments (which ended up increasing by about 60 students a year for the next 4 years, and by about 15 a year for the 4 years after that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post


    This answer is akin to saying "never," as the closeness of the comparison between Happy Hollow and Loker rules out a "clear choice" with a "palatable and airtight explanation."


    Not the point.
    Let me present my answer another way, with a question (or two.)

    Do YOU think that the way this process went was appropriate? Do you think that sufficient time, data and details went into arriving at the decision to close (for you, "reconfigure") a school?

    Are you proud of the decision?

  5. #5
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    Default Words matter: closing versus reconfiguring

    Two 3/29 posts (Mary B at 22:03 and John Flaherty at 23:16) on the Town Crier discussion board take exception to my characterization of the 2 1/2 school decision as a reconfiguration as opposed to a closing.

    At last year's Annual Town Meeting, when asked about whether the Happy Hollow window project was conditioned upon Happy Hollow remaining open, I responded that it was not in that we would still need to maintain the building if it were to be closed. I continued that such closure was not on the radar screen for the next 3-5 years. Mr. Flaherty chose to twist my words to the effect that I had ruled out a reconfiguration.

    My "reconfigure not close" response to Mr. Flaherty above was to refute his distortion of my words, and in no way implies that I take lightly the major impact of the reconfiguration on the Loker community, nor the significant impact on the Claypit Hill and Happy Hollow communities. Whether this year or next, that major impact on either the Loker or Happy Hollow communities would have been unavoidable, in my opinion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Two 3/29 posts (Mary B at 22:03 and John Flaherty at 23:16) on the Town Crier discussion board take exception to my characterization of the 2 1/2 school decision as a reconfiguration as opposed to a closing.

    At last year's Annual Town Meeting, when asked about whether the Happy Hollow window project was conditioned upon Happy Hollow remaining open, I responded that it was not in that we would still need to maintain the building if it were to be closed. I continued that such closure was not on the radar screen for the next 3-5 years. Mr. Flaherty chose to twist my words to the effect that I had ruled out a reconfiguration.

    My "reconfigure not close" response to Mr. Flaherty above was to refute his distortion of my words, and in no way implies that I take lightly the major impact of the reconfiguration on the Loker community, nor the significant impact on the Claypit Hill and Happy Hollow communities. Whether this year or next, that major impact on either the Loker or Happy Hollow communities would have been unavoidable, in my opinion.
    I am not twisting your words.
    As I said above, you can call it a reconfiguration, if you like. That is not inaccurate, either. But neither is the word "closing".

    From your point of view, it's a reconfiguration.
    From the point of view of those who go there, it's a closing because it is closed to them. They are no longer welcome there. The building has been assigned another purpose.

    We no longer have 3 elementary schools.
    With all of our Grades 1-5 split between 2 schools, we have 2 elementary schools and a kindergarten school.

    This is not twisting your words. It's fact.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Not the point.
    Let me present my answer another way, with a question (or two.)

    Do YOU think that the way this process went was appropriate? Do you think that sufficient time, data and details went into arriving at the decision to close (for you, "reconfigure") a school?

    Are you proud of the decision?
    In a vacuum, I would certainly not have designed the process the way that it unfolded. Unfortunately, though, we did not have the luxury of a vacuum. In the end, I'm proud of the way that I conducted myself and adjusted to a fluid situation, which in no way means that I like the choices that faced us--I would certainly have preferred to stay with 3 elementary schools had I been confident that they would have been sufficiently funded. In the end, I opted for a preserved educational impact with a lower financial burden. For elaboration, please look here.
    Last edited by Jeff Dieffenbach; 04-01-2008 at 06:17 AM. Reason: Correction of typographical error

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    In a vacuum, I would certainly not have designed the process the way that it unfolded. Unfortunately, though, we did not have the luxury of a vacuum. In the end, I'm proud of the way that I conducted myself and adjusted to a fluid situation, which in no way means that I like the choices that faced us--I would certainly have preferred to stay with 3 elementary schools had I been confident that they would have been sufficiently funded. In the end, I opted for a preserved educational impact with with a lower financial burden. For elaboration, please look here.
    ------

    Wow.

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