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Three schools recommended for closure; public hearing set for Dec. 4

At its Nov. 14 meeting, the District 191 School Board heard the recommendation to close Sioux Trail Elementary, Marion W. Savage Elementary and Metcalf Middle School after the end of this school year. The recommendation was presented by a third-party consultant who completed a facilities and program study last spring, and then facilitated an extensive public input process over the past six weeks. 

“Realigning our facilities to match our enrollment is an important part of our plan to better serve our students and put the district on more solid financial ground,” said Superintendent Dr. Battle said. “While I believe closing schools is necessary, I know that families affected by this recommendation will feel many emotions. Schools are not just bricks and mortar. There are memories and emotions and entire childhoods connected to our schools.”

In making the presentation, consultant Roger Worner said there was broad understanding among the public and staff members that closing schools was a necessary step. 

Worner also said that the community and staff input process resulted in some criteria rising to the top for selecting which schools should be closed. Among the most mentioned were the age of the building, capacity and enrollment, and how likely closing would result in lost enrollment because of where the school was located. 

Marion W. Savage is the district’s oldest elementary school, having been built in 1950. It has the 3rd smallest enrollment and the risk of losing students to open enrollment if it’s closed was considered small, according to Worner. Sioux Trail is the third oldest elementary school in District 191, built in 1964. It is the 4th smallest school and has the 2nd lowest enrollment, and it’s not located on the geographic edge of the district. 

Built in 1966, Metcalf Middle School is the oldest of the district’s three middle schools and has the lowest enrollment at about 600 students.  

“There will be feelings of loss that come with these changes,” Battle said. “At the same time, I want our community to know that many things will stay the same next year. Students will have teachers and staff who care for them. They will have playgrounds, books, and opportunities to learn, lead and serve.”

“Our commitment to ensuring each student is future ready and community strong will not change,” she said.

Timeline

A public hearing on the recommendation, which will provide time for community member feedback, will take place on Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m. A final decision could be made at the Board’s Dec. 12 meeting. 

People who wish to speak at the meeting will be asked to sign up in advance. People will be able to sign up to speak between 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at Diamondhead (enter Door #1). Speakers will be given a number based on when they sign up, and during the meeting, they will be called up to speak in that order. 

To try to ensure everyone who wishes to speak has an opportunity, speakers will be limited to no more than 3 minutes. Speakers who need an interpreter will be provided up to 5 minutes, but they will need to bring their own interpreter.

To make sure that participants’ thoughts and concerns are received in their entirety by the board, speakers are invited to prepare a written statement that summarizes your thoughts. Those statements may be submitted to the board if a speaker runs over their allotted time.

The district will also begin work on planning other changes that will result from the school closures, including attendance boundary changes. 

Board members are expected to resume discussions about the future of Diamondhead Education Center in January. Diamondhead houses district administration, Community Education, early childhood special education, space for professional development and the Burnsville Senior Center.

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Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2019 - 20:50