School Overcrowding Is Topic of BOE Meeting Tonight
The board meeting will be held at Jefferson School at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Following a recent population study conducted by the Summit Board of Education, members of the Franklin elementary school PTA met with school superintendent Nathan Parker last night to discuss several options to deal with overcrowding issues. Franklin is expected to be the school hardest hit by an uptick in students in the next five years. The board will meet on the topic tonight at 7:30p.m. at the Jefferson School.
According to reports of last night's PTA meeting, parents workshopped solutions to the overcrowding issue which currently affects the school. Different proposals were brought up among five groups of parents, which include talk of bringing in a trailer to hold classes, moving Franklin first graders to Wilson elementary school and several other suggestions. Tonight, the board is expected to continue the discussion.
School board president Michelle Stevenson, who will be stepping down this year, sent out a letter to parents this afternoon via the schools' listserv.
"The space issues at Franklin are complex, and we must take the time necessary to ensure that we are providing accurate and reliable information," wrote Stevenson. "Please remember also that we have approximately 21,000+ residents in this community who pay taxes for the approximately 4,000 students that reside in Summit. We have a fiduciary responsibility to every taxpayer to engage in fair due diligence in matters that will undoubtedly impact so many."
Here is the letter in its entirety:
April 26, 2012
Dear Parents and Community Members: On March 8, 2012, the Board of Education (BOE) commissioned a population study to increase its understanding of space issues in the district. Among other findings, the study showed space constraints at Franklin School that are currently affecting the availability of dedicated art and music rooms and that are expected also to affect the availability of a dedicated computer room in the fall. Franklin is the only school among Summit’s elementary schools that does not have dedicated art or music classrooms.
At a public meeting held on April 19, the BOE announced the process that it will follow to address the space constraints at Franklin. Please remember that we are required by law to conduct deliberations in public and, unlike PTA/PTOs and neighborhood groups, cannot gather together to exchange views and work through issues in advance of meetings. The space issues at Franklin are complex, and we must take the time necessary to ensure that we are providing accurate and reliable information. Please remember also that we have approximately 21,000+ residents in this community who pay taxes for the approximately 4,000 students that reside in Summit. We have a fiduciary responsibility to every taxpayer to engage in fair due diligence in matters that will undoubtedly impact so many. We will therefore continue to process this item as we do with all matters on the board’s agenda; we expect to conduct this review in a careful and thoughtful way, aimed at reaching the optimal goal of doing what’s best for our community as a whole, which of course includes Franklin School.
Dr. Parker identified several options for consideration at the April 25 meeting, and those at the meeting broke into small groups to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the approaches. Among the options that were discussed were: the creation of modular space for three classrooms; the creation of two first grade classes at Wilson; the relocation of two upper grade classes from Franklin to another school; and "laptops on a cart" for the next school year. We appreciate the engagement and focus of those who participated last evening.
Feedback from last night's discussion groups will be shared at tonight's Board of Education meeting. The options are also currently being discussed by all of the building principals and district administrators and by the BOE's Operations’ Committee. The options that were discussed on April 25 are not the only possible solutions and we will continue to search for the best short and long-term answers.
In order to reach the best solution, we will need feedback from the entire community. Please share your thoughts on the dedicated comment space that has been added to the district website.
It should be understood that what follows as this process unfolds will not be an abrupt decision about the Franklin space issue, but rather a continuum of the traditional action item process that the Board intends to complete in a timely, yet thoughtful manner as it has historically and successfully done. We hope that we may count on the community's support as we move forward to identify solutions. Please come out to our regular Board meeting beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, 2012, at Jefferson School to contribute to this process.
President, Summit Board of Education