District offers fresh details on consolidation plans
District officials on Tuesday offered fresh details on a proposal to shutter Alameda’s two middle schools next year, leaving the Island with two 7-12 high schools and 10 elementary schools that would house students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
The savings to be generated by the proposal were still unclear Tuesday, though, as district leaders were still working out the costs of putting middle-schoolers on the district’s existing high school campuses. Increasing K-3 class sizes to 32 students per teacher, a component of the proposal, would save the district $1.1 million a year, a presentation Assistant Superintendent Sean McPhetridge gave the Board of Education showed.
“This is not the best-case scenario,” McPhetridge said.
If the proposal were approved by the board, elementary school sizes would grow to between 315 students at Washington and 723 students at Ruby Bridges, estimates offered by McPhetridge showed. Attendance zone boundaries at Ruby Bridges and Paden schools would change, and boundaries for Washington, Franklin, Lum and Haight could also change.
One-time costs to prepare Alameda High School to house 2,550 students – which would include buying or moving over portables, adding lockers and restrooms – could reach $876,460, McPhetridge wrote in his presentation, though he said Tuesday that new estimates showed the number of students would be less than district officials thought and the costs much lower. High school attendance boundaries would shift from Union Street to Willow Street.
The district doesn’t anticipate costs for increasing the rolls to 1,500 at Encinal High School or to adding more students to its elementary schools, McPhetridge’s presentation showed.
A handful of teachers and two school board candidates who attended Tuesday’s school board meeting questioned the plans. They said seventh and eighth graders are too young to go to high school and should have a school space of their own.
One woman who identified herself as a juvenile justice and prevention consultant to school districts said putting younger grades into the district’s high schools would lead to drug, gang and truancy problems.
“You will be calling me in a few years if you do this,” the woman said.
Meeting attendees also asked for more detailed information on the traffic impacts of the plans. District officials had said traffic could be a “potential challenge” around Amelia Earhart Elementary if schools grow, while impacts at other schools would be “minimal.”
Trustee Tracy Jensen said she thinks having K-6 elementary schools could work, though she said changing attendance zone boundaries could be a challenge.
“Since I went to school here – most of the boundaries have not changed. It’s harder than closing or opening a school, in my experience,” Jensen said.
But McPhetridge said the district’s financial state will force the board to make some unpopular decisions.
“There’s going to be some type of change. The status quo is not going to remain in this district if we’re going to save money,” he said.
Meanwhile, the board voted to give the site that now houses Island High School and the Woodstock Child Development Center back to the Navy. District staff hope to move Woodstock to Longfellow Education Center over winter break and Island High to the Woodstock Education Center during summer break in 2011.
Also, the board will have a special meeting to talk about possible parcel tax structures at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Amelia Earhart School, 400 Packet Landing.