Letter to the Editor: District 200 Boundary Change a "Temporary Bandage"
Parent of Washington Elementary student concerned changing boundaries for middle school students is not a viable long-term solution for District 200.
CUSD 200 proposed at Wednesday’s School Board Meeting moving middle school boundaries to ease over-crowding at Franklin Middle School. On the surface this seems like a small issue, but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover it creates serious issues for the segregated children while it fails to achieve its stated goal.
Currently all CUSD 200 students (with the exception of those residing in Autumn Ridge) follow a standard and clear matriculation pattern: each specific elementary school feeds into a specific middle school, which then feeds into a specific high school. The school communities of children and families established in elementary schools are transplanted and grown into middle school communities which are then transplanted into high school communities.
Dr. Harris' plan proposes that a very small minority of each 5th Grade graduating class from Washington Elementary be splintered off and sent to Monroe Middle School when they enter 6th grade, while the rest of their graduating 5th grade class is sent to Franklin Middle School. Dr. Harris stated, within his plan, that they are looking to remove and relocate approximately enough children to fill a classroom for each Middle School Grade (6th, 7th and 8th) from Franklin and quoted an average class size of 30 children per grade. This means that every year, approximately 30 5th grade graduates from Washington (a mixture of girls and boys from multiple classrooms) will be separated from their graduating class, with whom they have spent 6 years in the classroom (Kindergarten through 5th grade), and transferred to Monroe. Monroe already consists of 100% of the graduating 5th grade classes from Emerson, Pleasant Hill and Sandburg Elementary Schools. Hence, each year, the 30 students from Washington will enter a pool of approximately 225 6th graders who are walking into Monroe with firmly established and trusted social relationships.
From our children’s first educational experiences, we all do our very best to build a trusted community of teachers, parents and students, so that kids feel secure and they are ready to move into increasingly larger environments -- middle school, high school, college and beyond. Dr. Harris' plan creates an environment in which a small minority of students loses their community and becomes outsiders. Reading anything from popular media to scientific periodicals tells you that the Middle School Years are extraordinarily difficult on children. In this environment where we routinely hear about the deadly consequences of bullying, taking away the "safety net" of their relationships puts our children at a terrible disadvantage.
Further, potentially sacrificing this small group of students does not even provide a long term solution for the key issue at hand: Franklin’s over-crowding. Dr. Harris stated in his report that the projected population at Franklin in 2014 (only 2 years from now) will be 822 students and implied this number will continue to grow. Removing the 90 or so students from Franklin (approximately 30 per grade) does not solve the overcrowding issue in 2014. As Dr. Harris reports, Franklin has a student capacity of 702. If we remove 90 or so students from the projected 822, Franklin is left with 732 students, still 30 students, or 4.3%, over capacity. Hence, the overcrowding issue has not been solved.
I propose the School Administration search for a solution that offers a permanent solution, rather than temporary bandage. Greater minds than mine can create ideas and alternatives. Perhaps the Administration can evaluate the feasibility of transferring an entire graduating 5th grade class to Monroe instead of Franklin; perhaps we need to look at elementary school boundaries so that feeder schools are appropriately sized for the middle schools that need to accommodate them. These alternatives would allow graduating classes to be kept together in their established communities and to move together into Middle School. Just as every student at Washington deserves.
I am unable to attend next week’s Community meeting with Dr. Harris, but I hope others will inquire into and follow-up on these issues.
Washington Elementary Mom of a Kindergarten Student