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Grade Configuration Steering Committee Meeting Summary

Feb. 27, 2017: Discussion of facilities

  • With the information from the past five presentations in mind, the committee has now moved into the discussion phase of its work, focusing first on potential facilities for future middle schools

  • Before discussing available spaces, Kent Baker, Chief Information Officer, provided a projection of future middle school enrollments as well as explanations of demographic data involving race, ethnicity and poverty that the committee had expressed concern over in previous meetings

    • Data on race and ethnicity is collected in a manner that avoids counting a single student multiple times; although technically classified as an ethnicity, for the purposes of this data individuals identifying as "Hispanic" are counted only once as a separate racial category

    • The data on poverty levels is also significantly lower than the actual rates, as free and reduced meal applications were the primary means of determining this. Because all students now receive free meals, this data can no longer be used accurately

    • These projections clearly indicate the need to address middle-school enrollment long-term, as it increases from 1,485 in 2016-17 to 2,024 in 2021-22. This figure rises by approximately 300 additional students when factoring in the Phase 1 recommendation that all sixth grades be housed at the middle school level.

      • Several questions and concerns were raised by committee members about the timeline for this transition of sixth-graders in terms of equity, again raising the question of a potential need for a fourth permanent middle school

  • Following Baker's presentation, Bill Hogan, Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs, led the discussion on facilities through a brief presentation on three potential "what-if" scenarios

  • In the first scenario, buildings continue to be used as they are planned for the 2017-18 school year, with 50 North Lark becoming the permanent home of the third middle school

    • By the 2025-26 school year, this would result in a projected shortage of 342 seats for students in grades 6-8

  • In the second scenario, 50 North Lark would remain a permanent third middle school, and North Albany Academy would be transformed into a smaller permanent fourth middle school

    • This would accommodate future enrollment, with a projected excess of 58 seats by the 2025-26 school year

    • Aside from the cost of renovating North Albany, Arbor Hill would need renovation as well to accommodate North Albany's elementary students, and there is a significant annual cost to staffing a small fourth middle school

  • In the third scenario, Arbor Hill would be converted to a large 800-student middle school, and 50 North Lark would become an elementary building

    • Aside from still having a projected shortage of 92 seats by the 2025-26 school year, the committee raised several concerns about this scenario

      • Even though Arbor Hill has by far the largest potential amount of square feet per student, this scenario leaves no room for growth

      • The question was raised whether this would actually provide an equitable middle school that meets the criteria studied in previous meetings, or whether it is simply the easiest for planning and financial purposes

      • Safety issues of being able to monitor 800 students given the open layout of Arbor Hill

  • Committee members also raised the question of building an entirely new school

    • This is estimate to cost $60 million, take 7-8 years and would require land to be purchases as well as approval from the State Education Department based on a clear need

  • By the close of the meeting, the committee did not reach a definitive consensus on a facilities recommendation, and will continue to consider this as it moves forward in its deliberation process

 

 

 

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