Facilities panel narrows list, gets surprise

The Jeffco Schools citizen and staff committee that’s studying possible school closures, student reassignments and program moves Monday narrowed the options it may recommend to the school board in January.

StockJeffcoLogo110109Recommendations that received tentative committee support would close two middle schools and four elementaries and move some district 6th graders into middle schools for an estimated total savings of $3.8 million (before one-time costs.)

But, the Facilities Usage Committee got a surprise late in the meeting when members learned that theirs might not be the only recommendations put before the board.

The 30-member committee, created by the school board last spring, has conducted an exhaustive process of study, evaluation and public comment, including four public hearings in November that drew more than 3,000 people.

Co-chair Phillip Infelise hopes the panel can cull its current list of about 50 options to between 10 and 15 to present to the board.

But on Monday, Justin Silverstein, an Augenblick, Palaich and Associates consultant who is helping facilitate the panel’s work, told members that district staff might give the board additional options.

Jeffco supt. Cindy Stevenson
Jeffco supt. Cindy Stevenson

Some committee members raised questions, and Superintendent Cindy Stevenson said, “I think it’s just a matter of trying to figure out all the ways to look at the issue. … I just think the board when it has to make hard decisions likes to look at all available data.”

Stevenson said she’s attending principals’ meeting around the district to gauge their feelings. Noting that implementation of some recommendations could create “winners and losers” among schools, Stevenson said, “I don’t want to create divisions among schools.”

The board requested the additional staff review. Three of the five Jeffco board members are new since the facilities committee was created.

The facilities panel broke into three groups Monday to discuss the 50-some options currently on the table, and each group recommended whether individual options should go the board or be dropped.

Here are the major options all three subgroups agreed to should remain in play:

  • Close Arvada Middle School and move students to North Arvada Middle. Estimated annual savings $1.3 million.
  • Move Ken Caryl Middle students to Deer Creek Middle and close Ken Caryl. Estimated annual savings $1 million.
  • Closure of Pleasant View Elementary School and moving students to Shelton and Welchester schools.
  • Move 6th graders from Devinny Elementary to Dunstan Middle. Estimated annual savings $25,815.
  • Distribute Pennington Elementary students to three other schools and close Pennington; send Wheat Ridge Elementary 6th graders to Everitt Middle. Estimated savings $413,423.
  • Move 6th graders from Martensen, Stevens, Molholm and Wilmore Davis to Wheat Ridge Middle, send younger Martensen students to three other elementaries and close Martensen. Estimated savings $456,233.
  • Move all Pomona-area 6th graders to Moore Middle, mover Zenger K-5 students to other schools and close Zenger. Estimated savings $206,860.
  • Close and demolish up to 120 temporary classrooms at sites where use is under 92 percent. Estimated savings $442,548.

Among major options rejected by all three subgroups were moving Westgate and Green Gables 6th graders to Carmody Middle, moving Chatfield Elementary 6th graders to two middle schools, restricting enrollment at Falcon Bluffs Middle and various proposals to move some preschool and other special programs and to create partner elementary schools.

The subgroups weren’t unanimous on a number of other options, so those will be discussed again when the full facilities panel meets for the last time on Dec. 14. The final list is due to the board Jan. 14.

Major options in that group include:

  • Moving 6th graders in the Alameda areas to O’Connell Middle.
  • Moving 7th and 8th graders from O’Connell to Alameda High School.
  • Putting Arvada 6th graders into middle school and closing Russell Elementary.
  • Closing Foster Elementary.
  • Moving Stony Creek Elementary 6th graders to Deer Creek Middle.
  • Changing elementary and middle school attendance areas in the Evergreen-Conifer area.
  • Closing Carmody Middle.
  • Creating partner schools in the Edgewater area.
  • Closing Fitsmorris Elementary.

The original list that was discussed at a recent series of public meetings contained 31 main options that, along with multiple variations for some of the options, totaled 50.

See this EdNews story for an in-depth look at the committee’s work and links to committee document, audio of the public meetings and other information.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.