Archive for Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Elementary school task force looking ahead

September 21, 2010


Tom Waechter and his five volunteer colleagues are busy visiting schools, gathering floorplans, gauging quality of lighting and compiling dozens more measures of the Lawrence school district’s elementary schools — all with two goals in mind.

First: Determine just what assets the district has as it prepares to shift sixth grades into middle schools for next year.

Second: Come up with a model for what elementary schools should look like in the years ahead, including building sizes, layouts, programming and site placements within the community.

“That will all be part of the look forward,” said Waechter, chairman of a committee reviewing the physical conditions of elementary schools.

Waechter, assistant director of design and construction management at Kansas University, is among 24 volunteers who make up four committees that together form a single task force to assess the past, present and future of Lawrence’s 15 traditional elementary schools.

Their charge: Recommend improvements — such as replacing, remodeling, closing or otherwise reusing buildings and their components — to best meet the district’s programming needs, both with available and anticipated resources.

Members met Monday at district headquarters to offer status reports. They’d met twice in August, and are scheduled to meet six more times before gathering Jan. 3 to put together a final report for the Lawrence school board.

“We’re in the information-gathering stage,” said Chuck Warner, a retired bank president and chairman of the committee looking at operations and efficiencies.

The final report from the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force is expected to be a single document covering topics considered central to best reflecting various community and educational values within budgetary constraints. Among other things, members are to define the concept of “neighborhood school,” assess schools’ operating costs and financial efficiencies, and research what would be considered optimal class sizes, staffing levels and other factors for new and remodeled schools.

And Waechter’s committee will be looking to translate those values to numbers on paper, likely in ranges for board members to consider when making decisions about particular school buildings or sites.

“It’s a big public exercise,” Waechter said after Monday’s meeting. “Of course the most dynamic piece is yet to come: when we all compare notes.”


Kookamooka 7 years, 7 months ago

Hooray. A measured approach. Knowing that there is a team of knowledgeable professionals looking at all of the physical details of our elementary schools makes any recommendations they might have for closing schools and/or building new ones palatable. I trust Tom. Way to go USD 497.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

*Maintaining property values must be one element

*Ease of children getting to school on their own must be one element - school buses can be a money hole and quite polluting

  • Class Size Impact on Learning must be an element

Returning to Small Schools and Learning

Welcome to the Research for Action (RFA) Small Schools Web Center. The web center is intended to be a resource for STUDENTS, PARENTS, and RESEARCHERS.

RFA research suggests that Philadelphia’s small schools plan shows promise provided that the District maintains its commitment to small high schools and provides adequate supports. View our latest research briefs – Teacher Perceptions of Small High Schools – Informing High School Choices: The Progress & Challenges of Small High Schools in Philadelphia

What is small? The School District of Philadelphia defines schools with fewer than 700 students as "small." However, national advocates usually define small schools as those with fewer than 500 students. Assuming the District definition, approximately 32 out of 62 of the District's high schools plus 20 of 21 charter high schools are small.

Why small? Research suggests that small high schools may meet the needs of a wider range of students. Small schools have the potential to improve school climate and better engage their students - resulting in higher attendance and a lower dropout rate. Some educators, however, point to advantages that larger schools can offer, including a wider variety of classes and more extra-curricular activities.

What is RFA studying about Philadelphia’s small high schools? Thanks to a two year lead grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York for “Going Small – Public Private Collaboration in Restructuring High School Education in Philadelphia," RFA is examining Philadelphia’s approach to creating and supporting small high schools, how the district works with partners in this effort, the perspectives of teachers, parents, and students on small high schools, and small schools’ impact on student enrollment and performance

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Empower the students! Empower the Instructors! WE can make anything work!

Let's Support More learning = eliminating No Child Left Behind

*School hours: 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM(more sleep) Eliminates public school traffic from the morning rush hour. If students need dropped off a bit early perhaps lab work,art projects,wood working or exercise could be scheduled.

Exercise = power walk,swimming,cycling/elliptical or aerobics = get the blood moving,weight maintenance, energy generation and waking up. Sometime between 11-2 each day new energy is welcome

*Is there necessarily any need for students to be doing class per se 5 days a week?

*This objective in fact is to empower the student, feed comprehension, improve testing based on learning, be productive in addition creating a less stressful environment yet more interesting.

Being able to devote whole days to home work and exercise during the school week surely would be beneficial. Yes beneficial to working parents,teachers and our students. It would seem that two days available for assisting students,if necessary, plus scheduled exercise time would be equally as beneficial as "class time". Doing art projects or lab work perhaps?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Thinking outside the box - Beginning at the Junior High Level

Isn't this about introducing and teaching children responsibility? Work ethic as well? Isn't this empowering the students?

*Let's talk 3 days in class and two days to read, do written homework and exercise. The two days could be done in the classroom and/or study hall with exercise scheduled in the gym. Every student does exercise time no matter what.

*The school library would be open as well for research.

*This suggested new scheduling would prepare students for the college and/or Vo-Tech daily schedule routine.

It would seem that all parents could appreciate two homework days a week at school with access to the teaching staff. If students do not have homework there is something wrong with that picture.

Teaching staff in fact puts in plenty of time after hours perhaps these two days would be helpful. Not only would they be doing themselves some benefit but also be there for students who have questions and/or need assistance with homework.

Isn't this about introducing and teaching children responsibility? Work ethic as well? Isn't this empowering the students?

Integrity and honesty cannot be taught by too many politicians so it must begin at home with teachers providing support. This is parental responsibility.

I assume that parents and students would be in discussion about how "home work days" would be utilized. Parents then would review the homework days accomplishments.

Parent/teacher meetings would provide other means by which to determine where the emphasis of study needs to directed.

*Could it save revenue? Who knows?

Could this approach allow our students the opportunity to blossom, learn and retain more? Maybe reduce boredom.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Is there way too much focus on buildings and/or new buildings and not enough focus on making school fun, interesting and exciting inside our existing resources aka schools?

conservative 7 years, 7 months ago

merrill if you're suggesting we need more small schools, and that somehow it is the school districts job to prop up property values then you are even more off base than usual. It is the school districts job to educate students which they do pretty well, and to do it as cost effectively as possible, which frankly they struggle with.

Mike Myers 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm sorry but that way of thinking just doesn't work anymore. We don't live in a vacuum. All decisions and paths affect other decisions and paths in some way. You are right that it isn't the school district's job to "prop-up" property values but they certainly have the ability to affect them. Don't you think that it makes sense to evaluate all of the possible outcomes of the decisions made?

sickofdummies 7 years, 7 months ago

We dont live in a vacuum, and all decisions have consequences that create a ripple effect. In that I agree. BUT...the number one goal of the school district has to be the education of its students; all of its students. As much as no one wants to see negative effects of some of the decisions, the school board has no easy answers. Regardless of possible outcomes, the education of the students has to be top priority.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Are we taxpayers not tired of paying $23,000 per acre for unimproved land for school buildings?

There are places for our capital improvement dollars without adding to the list.

The school district has a $16.5 million maintenance backlog in elementary schools.

jackson5 7 years, 7 months ago

If you want to see rooms that are NOT crowded, visit the junior highs.

windex 7 years, 7 months ago

So what is the elementary student/teacher ratio, overall? And what is the secondary student/teacher ratio, overall? I'm curious.

guesswho 7 years, 7 months ago

You can have bigger schools with smaller class sizes. Those two are not mutually exclusive.

overthemoon 7 years, 7 months ago

I like seeing that they are, in a different committee, addressing zoning, planning and schools as an interdependent set of issues. About time

Clevercowgirl 7 years, 7 months ago

Here's a major flaw in the Task Force mandate, there is no consideration given for a school's quality of curriculum or parent and community involvement. How can we assess what is best in terms of educating our children, and not include these factors. If you uproot a child's educationional community, there will be big consiquences in terms of sucess. If summer vacation disrupts academic progress, how much more disruptive will changes in the name of "efficiency" be? Why not spend the next several years improving on what is in place. Seems to me that shifting grades should be enough change for next year.

Cogito_Ergo_Es 7 years, 7 months ago

"Hooray. Knowing that there is a team of knowledgeable professionals looking at all of the physical details of our elementary schools makes any recommendations they might have for closing schools and/or building new ones palatable. I trust Tom. Way to go USD 497." I don't know Kookamooka, while I agree, they have assembled a team of professionals to be sure, I don't trust the Board's motivation. I believe the school board only created the task force so that they could point the finger elsewhere when they close the schools they have already decided to close. This just takes the heat off of them. It is an election year ya know! They are hiding behind a group of well respected community leaders, while all along guiding the discussions to fit their agenda. Oh, no we didn't make this decision, the TASK FORCE recommended it! Sure if you word the question correctly, you can get the answer you want...

GMom05 7 years, 7 months ago

"To control and sort young people for the sake of institutional efficiency is to crush the human spirit." ~~ Ron Miller

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