Hopefully you’ve reviewed the proposal plans and supporting documents. You can find these on the school district website.
It’s been reported on repeatedly. There have been many in-person presentations throughout the community for as many as possible and for any groups who have asked.
There have been extensive efforts to try and reach out to the community to provide as much information and opportunity to ask questions as possible.
Admittedly it’s a more complicated referendum than most and there is considerable detail to wade through and digest. It’s understandable that there would be many questions. Please don’t mistake though that questions posed have not been anticipated and addressed in the proposal, documentation and presentations. Diminishing returns on exceeding long posts limit exhaustive point-counterpoint here/now to every conceivable concern or even the full detail on an individual point otherwise available. Neither is it fully what any of us would want for ourselves as frankly we’d all have different views on what that best referendum would be.
Please review the documentation on the district website. Attend one of the public referendum presentations and ask your questions or view the video-taped presentation by Superintendent Steve McNeal (available on our home page). Satisfy your right to know what is being proposed.
We live our lives prioritizing. There have been concerns expressed about the referendum because of grade reconfiguration. It’s understandable for many reasons. So when we consider the referendum this must be in the context of our priorities.
Listen closely to “better” referendum concerns and you’ll hear most resolve to keeping the existing school configuration. Further, “better” calls to expand the program of patching to include what is claimed as neglected Aldrich and McNeel schools.
This is inaccurate. While indeed not directly part of the referendum, Aldrich and McNeel maintenance and redevelopment plans have been well published and available for review on the school district website. (PDF format).
- They have lesser need for remodeling in the first place as they’re already correctly sized for their purpose.
- Actually McNeel will get an additional gym space. Aldrich is already set in this regard. What is it that Aldrich needs that is not already covered in the published maintenance plan?
- Both Aldrich and McNeel will end up with slightly lower populations, less crowding and more room for programming currently unavailable due to space needs.
- No more “art on a cart”, “music on a cart” programs. They’ll have dedicated space for these curriculum. There are other additional as well.
- Further, they’ll reap benefits by not having to compete with eleven other schools for maintenance budget as those fewer schools will have been remodeled.
Tail wagging the dog?
If the argument for keeping the existing school configuration is because we together as a community believe:
- We want to maintain separation between older and younger students.
- Turner’s middle-school is adjacent to the high school and is able to manage this.
- OLA with K-8 is able to manage this.
- The school building plans show in detail school divisions with separate drop-off and entrances on opposite sides of the buildings.
- Busing provided for 4-6 graders.
- Staggered school start/end times for different age groups.
K-8 where all elementary grades share facilities is the model demonstrated throughout the nation to be highly effective and the model to emulate. This however is beyond our reach financially and responsibly. We can however realize many of the same educational benefits enjoyed elsewhere by the proposed reconfiguration PK-3 and 4-8.
- We don’t want an empty school building in our neighborhood.
- Frankly, neither do we. We don’t blame you for this concern. Of the four schools decommissioned one will be used for school district offices which leaves three.
- These will not simply be abandoned to rot. The city would not allow it. We together with our elected board would not allow it. They will either be sold responsibly or the lot cleared.
- We want small neighborhood schools.
- At base, we simply cannot afford many small schools. It’s a poor use of finite resources, both teachers and finances and we are outside the norm in this regard. Simply put, we’ll go broke on maintenance.
- This does NOT jeopardize teacher’s jobs. Actually it makes better use of this valuable talent pool. Teachers welcome the reconfiguration for all it’s many advantages around collaboration, leveraging resources and the educational opportunities for our students.
- The reconfiguration will actually result in eliminating the overcrowding currently experienced in many of our small schools.
- Smaller, narrower “neighborhood” based schools actually create more of a challenge around inclusion/exclusion dynamics. Schools drawing from larger geographic pools actually afford the opportunity to bring more children together.
- Oversized “mega” schools are not what’s being proposed. Beloit’s schools in fact have been outside the norm in how small they are. We are simply moving to more conventionally sized schools.
- Somehow band, drama and athletic programs will be hurt.
- We have many options on how these programs can be maintained with the help of teachers critical input.
- We too are huge advocates and will work just as hard to ensure continued development.
Academics and Sustainability (1st priority IMO)
If the argument for keeping the existing school configuration is because it would be best academically for our community’s children that would reflect the correct order of priorities.
That point however has not been made. Neither can it be because the overwhelming evidence supports moving away from it. The 6-8 & 7-8 “Middle School” model is broken and widely recognized as such. Trying to hang on to this is choosing to keep our kids at a disadvantage ACADEMICALLY.
Again, see the “Resource References” on the district website. Supporting evidence for why we need to move away from our existing middle school model is too numerous to cite here.
The concerns expressed while valid are indeed manageable, are not sustainable or are upside down in their priorities.
So, what are YOUR priorities?
Finally, claims the referendum has been rushed are inflated. The Referendum History Timeline outlines the development history. Delay at this time risks failing to lock in historically low interest rates and development contracts (including locally employed workers). This alone risks wiping out millions in value.
Don’t allow the tail to wag the dog.
Please vote yes for the Referendum on April 3rd.