James Barger's Redistricting Proposal

Monday, December 3, 2018, 11:59 am

School Board Redistricting Proposal - JPB

Goals

  1. Students come first, but everybody wins. This is not a zero sum game. If someone loses, the plan isn’t good enough.
  2. Reduced stress for everyone, sooner rather than later
  3. Amazing schools

Assumptions

  1. Pinecrest will need to move into a different building for 2019-2020.
  2. Red Cedar will serve in some sort of transitional capacity for at least 2019, and perhaps longer.
  3. Boundaries will need to be adjusted, at some point.
  4. Everyone involved in this decision, parents, families, teachers, administration, and board has the best interest of the children and community at heart. We’re all good people, we just have to find common ground and figure out how to make this work.

Note

While this proposal is written with reference to Glencairn, Pinecrest, and Red Cedar, that merely reflects the schools involved in the current boundary and programming decision. It is hoped that this proposal could be used to shape our policies regarding rebounding throughout the district

Proposal

  • Step 1 - Adopt the following regardless of what is decided about ultimate boundary decisions. Making these decisions as soon as possible would greatly ease the stress that families throughout the district are currently facing, and would allow our entire district and community to start focusing on the long-term success of our district.
  • Point 1 - Allow any current student to remain with and graduate with their current cohort, if they so choose.

One of the major sources of conflict in this issue is the struggle between the long-term needs of the district and the short-term needs of current families.

This alleviates the concerns of the Pinecrest neighbors who have expressed a desire to remain with the Pinecrest population. In the short-term, they would move wherever Pinecrest moves, and then return to new Pinecrest at the appropriate time.

This alleviates the concerns of the Glencairn/Red Cedar neighbors about the psychological impact of being removed from their school family, perhaps 3-4 times over the course of 3-4 years. We, members of the ‘70’, love being a part of the Glencairn community and culture.

This alleviates the concerns of any current permeable boundary or school of choice students, as they will know that they have the option of remaining with the school community that they’ve chosen.

This would lessen the impact on the Pinecrest administration, as they would not have to accomodate 70 new students dealing with their own stressful situation in the midst of transitioning to a new school building.

According to proposal #3 presented at the board meeting on 11/26, this is technically feasible. This would also allow for a more organic transitioning to the long-term boundary. As Superintendent Leyko mentioned, the target numbers are not meant to be hit instantly. Instead, they are the long-term goal we want to arrive at after 2-4 years. This is fully compatible with that ideal.

  • Point 2 - Do not require families to be split between two schools. Allow parents to keep younger siblings in the same school that their older siblings attend.

This would serve two purposes. First, it acknowledges the value of the social relationship between families and their teachers. Parents build a relationship with their teachers as their older children move through a school. As a result, parents and teachers learn best how to support each other as younger children progress through a school.

Second, it would eliminate the burden on families to manage the requirements of having children at two buildings. The arrangements necessary to support a child’s education are complicated significantly by having to move between buildings, everything from transportation, to school events, to parent/teacher conferences. Whatever solution we, as a district, ultimately choose should not complicate the relationship between parent and teacher, it should enhance it.

  • Point 3 - If the board chooses to vote on redistricting at this time, allow any family that would be potentially moved in the future (see Point 1) to make the move to their new school immediately, if they so choose.

This is intended to give families the utmost flexibility in choosing what is best for their child. Those families that prioritize their school community over a particular building would be able to remain with their community as indicated in Point 1. Those families, however, that prioritize a geographical concern, a reduced number of physical moves, or even different class sizes would also be able to make that choice.

  • Point 4 - Do not ‘force’ any students permanently into a building that is still in a “Swing” state (Red Cedar and Old Donley). Wait until the building has been finalized and updated.

A major concern of the parents of the ‘70’ students in the original proposal was the upheaval that would result from pulling the students from one school community into another, and then potentially doing it again multiple times over the upcoming years. This concern is exacerbated by the fact that transitioning places additional stresses on schools, students, and staff. The incoming students and staff are adapting to a new building, and it would be an added stress to try and accommodate a new block of 70 students having just undergone their own traumatic upheaval. Further, some school offerings are compromised due to the transitional state, and it would be unfair to expect one group of students to remain in transitional limbo for multiple years.

This is compatible with all bond language and expectations of the voters. The entire district has understood that each school would move temporarily into a swing building while their new building is being rebuilt. Even board members have spoken of the luxury of having swing schools while rebuilding is completed. It’s akin to moving into a hotel while one’s home is being remodeled. While not ideal, there’s also an element of excitement and anticipation for the upcoming move back into something new.

An added benefit will be that this buys the district as much flexibility as needed to complete the district-wide reconstruction process. If multiple schools within the Donley footprint is too burdensome, that’s fine, you can shift more transition into Red Cedar. If it takes extra time to finalize plans and construction for the future offerings at Red Cedar, again, that will be fine, because there won’t be students forced to go through all of these transitions.

  • Step 2 - Allow the Glencairn community, including any Red Cedar members that so desire, to return to Glencairn for the 2019 school year.

The Glencairn student body, as it currently stands, will fit completely within the new Glencairn. The plans for the school were optimized for this group of students. Even in max load scenario, where all 70 Red Cedar children AND all 58 Pinecrest children chose to attend Glencairn, the numbers could be managed.1 (Based upon public feedback to date, both numbers are likely to be less than those worst case levels.)

It would make little sense to ask families that live in close proximity to this new building to be bussed farther away. While it is incredibly selfless of these families and the teachers to offer to do this, it just doesn’t seem to be necessary. Further, given that a large portion of the Glencairn student body lives within walking distance of the new building, this would obviate the need to bus these students south to Red Cedar.

Another substantial benefit to allowing Glencairn to return to Glencairn would be that it would prevent the ‘70’ students from becoming stigmatized as “those students” that kept us out of our new school. Granted, most Glencairn families have far too much class to ever say this, but we would hate to force them to feel this way, even in secret.

While less important, this would also be consistent with the expectations that have been delivered to the children. They all took part in a groundbreaking ceremony last year, complete with dignitaries and little yellow hard hats. It would seem cruel to deny them the opportunity to return to “their” school. Further, they have put in their time at a transitional school, and now deserve the opportunity to return to their building, just as has been communicated by the bond proposal all along.

  • Step 3 - Transition the Pinecrest student body into the transitional Red Cedar building.

Regardless of where they are sent, Pinecrest students are going to need to move to a different building next year. Current Pinecrest population numbers (~351), minus any that chose to move with the Glencairn student body (unknown, but based upon parent feedback, substantially less than 58), would not adequately fit into the new Glencairn building without compromising some of the intended uses for the newly designed space. The current Red Cedar building is larger, and would be able to accomodate the entire group of up to 351 without forcing the need for overcrowded or compromised rooms.

Further, based upon feedback from the many Pinecrest families who have spoken at recent board meetings, the walk from even the closest parts of the Pinecrest neighborhood to the Glencairn campus is challenging. As a result, it is conceivable that the majority of Pinecrest families will need to be bussed, even if they were to be directed to Glencairn. The cost to the district would be increased because both Glencairn and Pinecrest families would be getting bused to school. Returning Glencairn students to Glencairn would eliminate a substantial amount of the Glencairn bus demand, without substantially altering the Pinecrest bus demand.

Again, this is also fully compatible with all language of the bond, as well as voter expectations.

  • Step 4 - Transportation Models
  • Point 1 - Returning Glencairn families to their local building will eliminate the need to bus them to Red Cedar, thus saving the district that charge. Further, busing Pinecrest students to Red Cedar vs. Glencairn does not represent a significant change in cost. Spartan Village, though its long-term fate remains uncertain, should not be taken into this consideration, as these students will have to be bussed regardless of the building to which they are sent.
  • Point 2 - All of the previous steps could be achieved entirely by granting any affected families a guaranteed permeable boundary. Per current permeable boundary policies, this would not include transportation.

This is a possible, though non-ideal solution. It addresses the immediate desire of families to make the best decision for their children, apart from any transportation implications. Many of the affected families could make this work, if not on their own, then through community efforts such as carpooling, etc. However, there is a not insignificant population within the Red Cedar catchment area that would choose to remain with Glencairn, but are burdened with more transportation challenges.

  • Point 3 - The October 26 proposal offered to grandfather current 4th graders, including transportation. Extend that offer to any of the other grades choosing to remain with Glencairn, for at least a year.

Per the communicated proposal, a bus would still need to be sent for those 4th graders. It seems a bit silly to allow one grade on the bus, but to tell all of the other children, including some of their siblings, that they’re not allowed to ride. Given that the number of affected students will be 70, or less, it is feasible that the resulting bus load could be accommodated by one bus.

Bus charges are based upon bus load and road time, and NOT upon a per pupil rate2. Therefore, this should not result in a substantially increased busing cost to the district. In addition, the current number of bus stops could be reduced. The entire Flowerpot and 1855 communities, for instance, could be accommodated by a single stop located near the intra-neighborhood path connecting the two neighborhoods.

This would offer affected individuals the advantage of a year in which to make adjustments to any new arrangements.

  • Point 4 - Offer transportation, but designate a single pick-up location for any student riding from their new catchment area to their old catchment area.

In order to minimize time and number of required busses, designate a single location (most likely at the school), to pick up students. It would be the responsibility of the parents to get their children to the designated pickup location. Not an ideal solution, for sure, but doable, if necessary.

This model would offer the added benefit of preparing the district to offer specialized programming at Red Cedar, and still transport families from throughout the district.

  • Step 5 - Programming Decisions - Make programming decisions before making boundary decisions, or at least before enforcing boundary decisions (See Step 1).

There has been a lot of conflict regarding whether or not programming decisions should be made ahead of boundary decisions. We feel that this conflict stems from focusing only on the short-term or only on the long-term. We, as a district, can’t afford to do either.

As parents, we completely want to know what will be provided for our children before we commit to sending them somewhere. That’s why we’re so against the proposal put forth on 10/22. It would deprive our children of the full spectrum of education resources for the next 3-4 years. By necessity, we have to be concerned with the short-term. We wouldn’t be doing our job as parents, otherwise.

  1. the other hand, we fully appreciate the focus that the board must direct to the long-term viability of the district. We are not opposed to Red Cedar becoming an amazing school. It’s just not that amazing school, yet, and it won’t be until all transition, rebuilding, and reprogramming is done. In fact, we are willing to help it get there. We’ll sit on any committee that will have us. We have argued against it because of the immediate needs of our children. In hindsight, that is, perhaps, the wrong path. I think, however, that this has guided much of the discussion that we’ve heard from certain board members. If we acknowledge the long-term importance of all 6 schools, and then commit, as a district, to getting all six schools to an outstanding level, I think the entire community wins. I also think that this has been the focus of those board and community members that speak to “the language of the bond.”

In talking to board members, it has become clear that Red Cedar may offer some non-standard programming. Much of our concern has been based upon turning the new Red Cedar into a reduced size K-5 school. It has been explained that it may not ultimately become a K-5. Given this, it seems grossly premature to send students there now, who may have to be moved in 2-4 years because Red Cedar is no longer designed to accommodate their grade. If programming will not be in place until 2021, why send new students to the school in 2019?

If we can just disentangle the long-term success of the district from the short-term success of the current students, then we feel that the vast majority of the current tension will disappear.

Benefits

  • All affected families can remain with either their current or future cohort, at their discretion. This will alleviate an amazing amount of stress at the family level. Further, it is compatible with proposal 3 & 4 put forth by Superintendent Leyko on 11/26, insofar as allowing school communities to remain together.
  • This buys the district the maximum amount of flexibility in determining ultimate boundary needs and programming decisions.
  • This will foster community involvement in the district, as opposed to dividing neighborhoods and schools against one another. We went through that five years ago and it was horrible. We have so many dedicated, creative, and amazingly skilled people populating our community. We would be silly not to tap into this resource.
  • This will address the important, but long-term needs of the district AND the important, but short-term needs of current students.
  • There will be some “stress” involved in any transitions. This way, however, we can deal with that stress at one point as a district community, and not by scapegoating one particular group of students repeatedly for the next 3 years.
  • This will still allow the district to transition to their long-term plans, albeit organically over the course of 3 years.
  • It would be very awkward for teachers to prepare one classroom for the end of year transition when one group is going one place, and one portion is being sent away. In fact, it would be a lot like a funeral. This would completely eliminate that need.
  • On that same note, this will alleviate stress that teaching teams throughout the district are facing due to not knowing their near-term future. As it stands, teaching teams may be broken up, and student connections may be lost. Our teachers deserve the very best support that we can give them.
  • As was mentioned, both by board members and several parents, the current questions of boundaries, schools, programming, and neighborhoods keep coming back up every few years, along with all the associated stress, frustration, and hard feelings. By acknowledging and addressing both long and short-term needs, we can finally put this thing to bed. We’re building 6 amazing new schools. This shouldn’t be stressful. This should be awesome!

Costs

  • There could be a small increase in transportation costs over the short-term. This should be able to be minimized, though, through some routing creativity. In fact, we’d be willing to drive our children ourselves, and as many others as we could fit in our van, if it meant that we could make this work for the community.
  • There may be some slightly crowded classrooms for the next 2 years, or so. As Superintendent Leyko mentioned, however, in a max load scenario, this plan could work, even if all ‘70’ of the affected students chose to remain with Glencairn. The problem will be gone in four years, and it seems a minor price to pay for the psychological and academic well being of an entire cohort of students.
  • Some of the challenges derived from transitions and temporarily floating student numbers could be accommodated by increasing teacher, support staff, or parent volunteer numbers. This is a point to be considered, though not what I’d consider a deal breaker.

 

 


 

1Total Students (assuming all proposed, come to Glencairn): 347

Basic- 6

K - TBD, I’m estimating 50 which is high

1 - 76

2 - 57 (although I know at least 2 that are leaving by end of year, no guarantee we won’t get more)

3 - 63

4 - 54

5 - 41

So this would make 2 sections of K, 4, and 5 that would be under cap. We would need to use the 13th classroom for a third section of 1st. We would need to have a 3rd section of 3rd grade (would be nice for this group since they had sooo many in K). 2nd is a little tricky- it’s over cap (24) IF numbers stay the same. If they drop, no problem. Other option (which was discussed at board meeting for Pinecrest) and what I think would be great is using the STEM classroom as a combined 2/3 class. That means we can have 2 2nd grade classes of 24, 2 3rd grade classes of 25, and a 2/3 classroom of 24!

(Thanks to Karin Polischuk for these projections)

2 Per conversation with Dean Transportation and Ingham Intermediate School District bus router.