by Max Brantley
I told you a few days ago that LR School Superintendent Linda Watson has recommended closure of Woodruff Elementary because of its small enrollment. It would be converted to a pre-K center. A community forum on the idea is scheduled at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11, at the school. Rumors abound that one or two other schools may also be on the chopping block, but only Woodruff is known so far.
I'm happy to pass along evidence that voters elected another diligent school board member in September with the selection of Jody Carreiro. A memo he's written about the Woodruff closure is on the jump. (Dr. Watson has replied to his questions by saying most were considered in reaching her recommendation.)
I hope that the administration is ready to answer a lot of questions that will legitimately come up in the community forum. If they don't come up there, they are questions that I have that should be answered before the board gives serious consideration to any proposal. I offer this not because I already have an opinion, because I do not. I am basing these questions on our board policy listed below.
Excessive cost of operation due to declining enrollment
1. The K-5 numbers I find are 207, 200, 203 for the past three years. This is a small enrollment but not necessarily a declining. Are there factors that lead us to believe it will decline?
2. What is the cost of operation of this school compared to the other elementaries and the elementary system in general?
3. If enrollment is stable but small could a slight change in assignment zones get the school up to an efficient capacity?
4. What is the efficient operating capacity of the school?
5. In particular the 3-5 grade classes there seem too small for two decent sized classes per grade. Have we lost 3-5 graders at the school in the past 3 or 4 years or were those just small classes to begin with?
6. If we converted to a Pre-K center, how many students would we need to keep the building financially stable?
7. What would be the cost of converting the building to Pre-K standards? I believe there are certain facility standards for Pre-K.
8. Would we get additional resources from the state if it were a Pre-K center? I know they are not eligible for foundation funding but what other funding would there be?
Excessive cost of renovation and repair due to the age and physical condition of the facility or other catastrophic event
1. Are any major renovations due on this building? if so, what is the cost?
2. Is the building as currently configured able to offer the same things that our other elementary schools do and if not, what would be the cost of getting up to date?
3. The building is clearly old, but is it in decent physical condition (especially as compared with other older school buildings)?
(And no I have not personally been in the building yet, but I will be on 11/11)
Dangerous environmental conditions
1. Do any dangerous environmental conditions exist?
The educational goals of the District
1. Woodruff was added as a year 1, school improvement list. How close were they to meeting standards?
2. If they were absorbed into another school, which one(s) would it be?
3. What effect would these students have on the school improvement status of those school(s)?
4. How would a conversion to a pre-k center improve the school improvement status of the schools nearby?
The inability of the district to deliver the required curriculum in the facility
1. Are we able to deliver the required curriculum in this facility?
2. If not, is it a facility problem?
1. Do we know the projected budget shortfall for 09-10?
2. What is the estimated savings of closing Woodruff?
3. What is the estimated cost and income of converting to a Pre-K center?
4. What is the estimate cost of conversion to a Pre-K center?
5. If the community asks next week, what can WE do to help you decide to keep this school open, what is the answer?
6. The board needs to see the AYP calculations for Woodruff and the neighboring schools that would/could be effected by this change?
7. Can we somehow weigh the PR hit we take for this? The last closure did not go very well if I remember and I know we had to spend time and money repairing the community relationships on that. Would we save enough money (or more importantly improve the chances of enough kids) to make that worthwhile.
Those are just the questions that woke me up at 5 this morning. I am sure I will have more once I have more time to think about it. I would again suggest that we have still not been provided the enrollment analysis necessary to make sound analytical decisions about where to concentrate our recruitment and problem areas.
CLOSING OF SCHOOLS
A school will be considered for closure based on a recommendation from the administration to the Board of Education or the recommendation may originate from the Board. Consideration for closure will be based on the following factors: excessive cost of operation due to declining enrollment, excessive cost of renovation and repair due to the age and physical condition of the facility or other catastrophic event, dangerous environmental conditions, the educational goals of the District, or the inability of the district to deliver the required curriculum in the facility. The extent of use of the existing facilities in the District will also be factored into the recommendation.
A decision to close a school will be made by the Board of Education.
Prior to any decision to close a school, there will be open discussion of the prospect of closure with the community in which the school is located. A public announcement of the proposal to close a school will precede the closing date.
Jody B. Carreiro
Little Rock School Board, Zone 5