Boundary Engagement Process Update from Dr. McCann
Posted December 18, 2018
The following is a message from Superintendent Dr. Blane McCann regarding the Boundary Engagement Process.
To the Westside Schools Community,
I want to provide an update regarding the work of our District Boundary Committee as part of our Boundary Engagement Process. To recap: the goal of this committee has been to balance District enrollment between Loveland, Sunset Hills and Swanson, giving consideration to educational, financial, and community concerns, with the specific focus on optimizing new space at Sunset Hills. Throughout the five committee meetings and two public forums, I heard a lively and robust public debate regarding the modifications being discussed. As a father of five children, 7 grandchildren, and working as a school administrator for over 30 years, I certainly understand the emotion any boundary change discussion brings to a community.
To provide some context, in the mid-1990’s, the Westside Administration and Board of Education determined that an optimal total enrollment of approximately 6,000 students allowed the district to remain a Class A high school. This enabled the district to maintain a large number of rigorous high school academic course offerings. Further, it allowed the district to keep 10 elementary schools open, each with a number of non-resident students (enrolled through the state’s option enrollment program) that topped off classrooms that were under capacity. Finally, the District was able to leverage the state’s funding formula to offset the cost of non-resident students who attended the district. In all, it continues to be a net positive for Westside Community Schools.
In 2012-2013, a Facilities Task Force was convened and, using the DLR district facilities audit that had been completed, evaluated the scope and breadth of renovations needed in our buildings. During this process, discussions included expanding Sunset Hills Elementary from a one section building to three or four sections of grades K-6, expanding Swanson Elementary to three sections of grades K-6 and closing Loveland Elementary. District leaders and our Task Force heard clearly and resolutely from the community that maintaining neighborhood schools was incredibly important throughout Westside.
Thus, the commitment was made to keep Swanson and Loveland as two section schools. And because it is not fiscally responsible to maintain a one section school, the decision was made to rebuild Sunset Hills as a two section school. Discussions at the time also included the need to adjust attendance boundaries that would maintain district enrollment at a larger Sunset Hills and also help relieve bubble classes in other elementary buildings.
Recently, I have been asked why we need to make a change to our traditional boundaries. It is clear that Sunset Hills will not grow organically due to the smaller number of single family and multiple-family dwellings in the Sunset Hills neighborhood. We need to adjust the attendance areas to balance the number of homes and, consequently, to balance the student capacity of each building.
The Facilities Master Plan incorporated Sunset Hills and Swanson into Phase One of the Master Plan. Loveland was incorporated into Phase Three of the Master Plan to allow the district time to acquire surrounding properties for space to rebuild Loveland.
Additionally, it is clear to me that our neighborhood school concept is very important to our community members. It is my hope to balance these attendance areas while maintaining a sense of neighborhood community. Some feel that this is not possible. However, I witness this balance and sense of community at both Westside Middle School and Westside High School when all of our K-6 learners come together in the same schools, combining 10 distinct elementary school communities into one where all students work and learn together.
The process facilitated by our consulting firm, RSP & Associates, was able to develop four different scenarios to modify the attendance areas of Loveland, Sunset Hills, and Swanson elementary schools. I have attended every meeting and met individually with each impacted school’s community club. I am assessing many opinions, insights and needs, as well as multiple options for a possible boundary change, since no one option presented was a clear-cut favorite of the committee.
I am now working to develop a final recommendation for the BOE to consider, using all of this information generated from and during the process. I realize that any decision will result with some of our community being pleased and others being disappointed. My charge from the board is to make a recommendation that is in the best interest of the long-term health and stability of our great district; a district that I love and that I want nothing but the best for in the future. Please know I take that charge very seriously.
We had initially anticipated having a recommendation ready for the Board of Education in December or January. As the Board will also be voting on a new Superintendent at the sole January Board meeting, I will present my recommendation on boundary changes at the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting on February 4, 2019. I am certain that this recommendation will include a grandfathering clause to provide current students an option to remain in their current school or move to Sunset Hills. We encourage you to check our Boundary Engagement Process section on our website for full details, background, timeline updates and more. Here is a link: http://westside66.org/boundary-engagement-process/
In closing, I want to thank everyone for their insight, opinions, and ideas that are helping me to make this critical recommendation. This lively debate and discussion is why I enjoy leading this school district. Frankly, not every school district has such a strong base of passionate support, and I appreciate your engagement and investment in public education.
Please enjoy a safe and relaxing Holiday season.