When parents reacted strongly against the superintendent’s plan to reconfigure our elementary schools and move 750 students in grades 2 – 6 into a new building, the administration came up what they considered a compromise. In addition to the unusual and developmentally questionable decision to transition kids after 1st grade to a new, large school, they would further experiment with the “school-within-a-school model” and create “co-located schools”. They argued that this would preserve the community feel of the current K-6 schools because the students would be separated into two separate wings.
There are several problems with this plan.
First, duplicating administrations for the two “co-located schools” cuts deeply into the economy of scale promised by consolidation. The need to increase the bus fleet further decreases the operational savings by $220,000 per year and creates a chaotic commute for all elementary school children, including those at Crocker Farm. Merely having two sets of grade 2 – 5 classrooms and outdoor play areas at opposite ends of the large building does NOT create a “small school feel”, particularly when all 750 students will share the use of major facilities including the gymnasium/auditorium, cafeteria, library/media center, and bus loop/parent pick-up/main entry area.
Because the single gymnasium will serve both “co-located schools” with a total of nearly 40 classes, there will routinely be several times per week when 2 gym classes will occur simultaneously, separated by netting. This room will also serve as the auditorium (with a 21 inch high stage located at one end) so that if either of the “co-located schools” has an assembly, neither will be able to have gym classes during that time.
The nurse’s office would also serve the entire 750-student body and is located in the center of the building with no windows and no direct natural sunlight.
Between the footprint of the building, the parking and roadways to accommodate the large increase of staff and visitors, and the topography of the site itself, outdoor play spaces for these 750 kids will be significantly reduced (>50%) compared to what they now enjoy.
While it is impossible to prevent the inevitable comparisons between the “co-located schools” in terms of staff and student body composition and educational superiority, it was suggested that the facilities of these co-located schools would be equitable. On closer inspection, this is not the case.
The cafeteria is separated into two sides using a retractable accordion divider. One co-located school would use the half of the cafeteria that has windows on three sides while the other would experience the foot traffic of their “co-located” school mates walking through their windowless space.
One co-located school would have a smaller play structure, a hard surface that is surrounded by the bus loop, and a grass field that cannot fit even the smallest soccer field. The other would have access to a much larger grass field (if the District is allowed to use the Middle School’s facilities) but that is accessed via a steep slope/long ramp.
The project’s budget does not include any alternative/non-carbon based energy sources. It is only “solar ready”, meaning that it could have photovoltaics in the future. The term solar ready is rather meaningless, being defined as a building having roof space available and unblocked by other buildings/trees. The administration has stated that if there is any money left over at the end of construction, solar panels could be installed but this assumes that the rest of the project comes in under budget. The heating system is a boiler that will use fossil fuels (not environmentally friendly alternatives such as a geothermal heat pump).
Finally, the building design and site do not easily, or inexpensively, accommodate any possible future increase in enrollment or accommodation for preschoolers or kindergarteners should the District find that the grade reconfiguration is undesirable and wants to switch back to PreK/K-6.