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District offers fresh details on consolidation plans

Submitted by on 1, October 13, 2010 – 5:00 am11 Comments

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.

11 Comments »

  • I find myself personally torn on the 7-12 High School issue. Emotionally, it seems that 7th graders are too young to be hanging out with 12th graders. But many countries with solid educational systems have an upper/lower school system that has this configuration and it works.

    I don’t remember Seniors getting involved with Freshman in High School, heck, it seems like the 8th graders in Middle School rarely interact with the 7th graders. So I find myself thinking that perhaps such a configuration would not be such a great disaster.

    No easy solutions either way.

  • Nick B says:

    Watched the meeting live on Comcast Channel 15 last night. A few comments:

    1) Still no answers to the many relevant questions asked by the audience at the public hearing. For exemple, what happens to a school after its closure? What does it cost to keep a school closed? can it be sold?

    2) Despite the security concerns of many parents regarding 7-12 schools, it doesn’t seem the superintendant office is concerned at all, they seem to completely ignore this topic.

    3) There has been several mentions of exploring K-8 elementaries, the high schools don’t really have the capacity to handle 7-12, it raises security/early-delinquency concerns, and the elementaries have more than enough space to handle the 6-8 grades. I’m very surprised the Board didn’t mandat such an option to be explored by the superintendant.

    4) why weren’t magnet options mandated too?

    From a citizen’s point of view, this process is frustrating. The presentations published by the superintendant prior to the meetings are outdated and very suspicious (“oh we got new software last week, you can cut those Alameda High School costs by half”). The concerns of the public are not taken into account. The assistant superintendent is overly cocky, and the superintendent is defensive and binary (really, you can’t even start to study traffic impacts without the Board unlocking $100K for you? did you even approach the Alameda police department for their input?).

    I really feel we’re being forced into Option 1 Phase 1 due to a dirty trick on Sept. 30th, and I think there are a lot more sensible options that have not even been explored. Our tax dollars should be at work round-the-clock to deal with this situation and keep the public informed (and their questions answered), and i just don’t feel it’s happening, or at least it doesn’t show.

  • Denise Shelton says:

    I really would not want my 7th and 8th graders in with high school students. I think K-8 is a better solution. I also think traffic from pick up and drop offs will be a big problem with consolidation.

  • Marshall Goldberg says:

    It’s a terrible option, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the AUSD made a hard decision like this. When millions of dollars are pulled out of a school district’s operating budget, the results are bad. No big surprise here.

    If you’re upset about this decision, direct it at the people who fought the initiative to fund our schools.

  • Andy Currid says:

    While discussing the site restructuring options (7-12, K-8, etc.) it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that alongside any of these options, we still face increases in K-3 class size to 32:1, increase in other class sizes to 35:1, and massive program cuts throughout the system. Those are huge concerns for anyone who cares about the quality of education being provided, regardless of how our facilities are structured. The district is required to plan for the worst, but as a community we need to plan how to fund our schools to avoid these scenarios. We need to pass a new parcel tax.

  • Wayne Dominguez says:

    It does not surprise me the AUSD Board members dont respond to the hard questions and make statements which appear unsupportable.

    They are waiting for public reaction to their consultant driven (MORE EXPENSE TAXPAYERS) statements. This again is a game of chicken…let new Board members make the hard calls.
    Which maybe just fine….

    By the way AUSD why dont you bury Webster St in favor of Park St

    another game is going on here folks.

  • Common Sense for Alameda says:

    Are the business owners who cried foul about a parcel tax really going to be surprised by the mass exodus of families leaving Alameda should these school proposals take place?

  • David Howard says:

    The business owners that opposed the last parcel tax have proposed their own structure that they would support. They’ve also provided a detailed parcel database, which the District so far has not.

    http://www.action-alameda-news.com/alameda-unified-school-district-parcel-tax-2011/

    • David,

      The database issue came up at the board’s public hearing on the parcel tax tonight (more on that tomorrow, btw). The district’s general counsel, Danielle Houck, said she is looking into whether that can be made public. She said the big concern is that the information may be proprietary, and that may prevent the district from, say, putting it up on the web. But she said the city has similar data, and that the district may be able to provide a link to that.

  • Publius says:

    Howard:

    There is NO possessory interest tax possible at the Navy Base. That information is plainly stated in AFT’s own information. This is the second time I have had to remind you that your own material contradicts your position. When will you correct it?

  • Hot R says:

    The consolidation will work.

    Currently St. Josephs has a K-12 site, and I don’t think we have 7th graders being shaken down for lunch money or dating 12th graders there. ACLC runs their 7-12 program on the Encinal campus without any apparent problems. So clearly it can work.

    For those of you who like the magnet schools idea, consider that an advanced middle school student could under this configuration take more advanced math and language courses available now only to high school students. This will allow them to take AP classes earlier and thus increase their chances to get into the college of their choice.

    For teachers, this will give an excellent opportunity for vertical articulation, allowing the high school teachers to exchange ideas with the middle school teachers to produce stronger students by the time they get to high school.

    I believe this will be the model across the nation – not just in Alameda, as schools attempt innovative ways to react to budget cuts.

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