Archive for Tuesday, February 5, 2008

School boundaries may remain unchanged

February 5, 2008

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— A sigh of relief followed by applause filled the De Soto School District's boardroom Monday night - the De Soto School Board voted 7-0 to look into a growth plan that doesn't change boundary lines.

The plan, which will be finalized at the March 3 board meeting, would create four more classrooms at Mill Valley High School. One bay of student lockers would be moved and temporary walls would be erected to create three small resource-type classrooms. This would free up two regular-sized classrooms that resource classes currently are using.

Additionally, the former industrial technology classroom that currently is used for journalism would be divided in two to create another classroom. Finally, a computer cart would be used in place of an existing computer lab, creating the fourth classroom.

According to the proposal, the plan would cost the district roughly $75,000, which includes moving lockers, adding partitions, electrical outlets and Internet hookups and possible changes to sprinklers, ventilation, lighting and fire alarms.

Mill Valley staff members drew up the plan and offered it as an alternative to the initial plan that was presented to the school board Jan. 14. The previous plan included middle school boundary changes in order to make room for high school classes to be located in Monticello Trails Middle School. It would have sent students in two subdivisions within walking distance of Monticello Trails about five miles away to Mill Creek Middle School.

"I empowered the staff to use their brains and their experience to suggest every and all alternatives before we do something," Mill Valley Principal Joe Novak said.

The plan drawn up by Mill Valley's staff was one of seven plans presented to the school board Monday night, and is not final.

Superintendent Sharon Zoellner read through all seven plans and cited the cost and effect on students associated with each plan. Board member at-large Don Clark said he strongly supported the plan, called Idea F, drawn up by Mill Valley staff.

"What I would say is throw pretty much all of them out but F and work on getting a bond issue out as soon as possible," he said.

However, school board vice president Larry Meyer said the board needed to work together for that to work.

"The only way a bond issue is going to pass is that we as a board will have to all be on board," he said.

Board members Bill Fletcher and Randy Johnson openly opposed the last bond referendum that failed in September 2007.

How it will work

Novak said resource, or special education, students would not be missing out on space as the average class size is about six to eight students.

A plan already was in place to divide the journalism room in order to put in a lab for a home improvement class, Novak said.

"We put that off with the introduction of pre-engineering and engineering programs," he said.

Utilizing a computer cart would replace the need for one of the writing labs in the library, Novak said. A similar move was done two years ago to make space for another classroom.

"The two labs in the library are writing labs that were originally built and designed because wireless (Internet) wasn't available where it is today," he said. "Now that wireless is available we can convert a room into a classroom."

Lockers will be moved from the hallway north of the library to the main corridor that leads to the gym and auditorium. The move would make hallways less crowded, Novak said.

"In reconfiguring some of the existing locker spaces down that main spine we will actually create a better traffic flow for our kids up and down that main stairwell," Novak said.

Patron support

Woodland Park resident Jim Beashore, who opposed the initial plan that would have sent his daughters to Mill Creek, said before the meeting he was going in cautiously.

"We've just been burned so many times in so many years," he said.

Beashore, along with other patrons in the Woodland Park and Monticello Farms subdivisions, wore red to the meeting to show they were united and that they wanted the district to stop moving their children to different schools. It was similar to what they had done at the Jan. 23 community meeting at Horizon Elementary School.

The sigh of relief and applause that followed the board's decision to move forward with a plan that didn't change boundaries was mostly a response from the patrons attending from Woodland Park and Monticello Farms.

"I think it may have been the emotional stuff from the folks who were wound up that put a little pressure on them to get a better solution here," Beashore said after the board's vote. "We'll feel better after the vote is a formal vote. Decisions like these when we make them right is what will get everybody to pass the bond."

Sandra McGirr, a Woodland Park resident, said she was encouraged because her child wouldn't have to move but she said the board needed to "cut the pork" when putting out a bond referendum.

"If they just put a straight bond out there without anything added to it then they'll get a yes vote," she said.

She said extras, like artificial turf, discouraged patrons from voting yes in September.

Patron Shannon Folk said she agreed the board needed a clean bond issue.

"We've all seen what happens when the patrons don't support the schools."

Growth plans presented to the school board.

Idea A: Monticello Trails Middle School satellite classroom proposal 1, which would shift all neighborhoods within the Horizon Elementary School attendance area to the Mill Creek Middle School attendance area.

Idea B: Monticello Trails satellite classroom proposal 2, which would shift all neighborhoods within the Horizon attendance area, except Monticello Farms and Woodland Park, to the Mill Creek attendance area.

Idea C: Move all ninth-grade students from Mill Valley High School to Mill Creek.

Idea D: Move all high school advanced placement classes from De Soto High School and Mill Valley to Mill Creek.

Idea E: Change high school attendance areas and move 100 Shawnee students from Mill Valley to De Soto High.

Idea F: Create four classrooms within Mill Valley. (see above)

Idea G: Lease or purchase temporary modular classrooms and place them on Mill Valley's campus.

For more information on each plan including its effect on student learning, the number of students affected, additional staffing, facility issues, transportation costs, safety issues and other considerations, check out the document linked to this article on www.shawneedispatch.com or visit the district's Web site, www.usd232.org.

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