Greetings all / Happy New Year!
Several items on the school district front -
1.Two major accomplishments that speak to our district’s mission being lived here at Southwest:
Academic Growth: We received our 3rd Grade Fall Reading State Assessment results and our passage rate was 14% above the state average, and up 9% from last year! This is an extremely important measure of academic standing and great news to start the school year!
Social Growth: We donated over 25K canned food items to the Mayors Fund Canned food drive to help those locally in need and we “Stuffed the Bus” with need supplies to help those affected by the wildfires in Gatlinburg, TN. Filling a bus takes an incredible amount of donations!
2. Residential Development, Increased Enrollment and Instructional Space resolutions - Winter break provides a great time to reflect on what's working and what aspects of our system need adjustment. With central registration here at our district office, I see many of the students / families that enroll on what seems to be a daily basis. Growth is good! We love adding new students and families to our educational community! With this growth, however, we are seeing major space constraints take hold at Crosby Elementary and Harrison Junior School this school year and projecting in to the future -
Crosby is up 80 students from November 2014 (this is after moving the 6th graders to the Junior School). And Harrison Junior School is up over 340 students in that same time frame. As a district, we are up 316 students in the last five years. To put that in perspective, we are graduating 260 Seniors in the class of 2017 this May! We have added more than an ENTIRE graduating class, over the last 5 years.
Continued growth expected - Housing construction and planning is taking place in the areas that feed Crosby Elementary, Harrison Junior School and eventually Harrison High School, including the Parks of Whitewater, Whitewater Trails, Fort Scott, Glendower Place, Short Road, the lots on Route 128 and more. There is the real potential for over 1,000 homes to be built in the next 5 years.
3.Short- Run Spacing Remedies - On January 10, the board of education will vote on a four-year contract to lease 4 modular classrooms for Crosby Elementary and 6 at Harrison Junior School, for use starting in 2017 / 18. We are also looking to add an additional 2nd grade teacher, 3rd grade teacher, 4th grade teacher and 5th grade teacher next year at Crosby - due to the massive enrollment increases that we are experiencing and those teachers will need classrooms. Currently, we have no open classrooms at Crosby. We are looking at three 5th grade classes being held in the modular classrooms. As for the modular classrooms at HJS, our current plan is to move some of the 7th and 8th graders to these classrooms.
Long-Term Spacing Remedies – The elephant in the room is what to do with not only our spacing concerns for the long-term future, but also our antiquated schools (technology shortfalls, building infrastructure concerns, etc.) – for this, we have three phase plane in place currently:
A. Community Focus Groups / Facilities Assessment (Dec. 2016 – Jan. 2017): Eleven Community Focus Groups are currently being conducted by an outside Public Relations firm (Ashire Communications). The feedback / input from these meetings will shape our school district communications plan for the future. We also have a facilities assessment taking place this month, again, conducted by a 3rd party organization (Steve, Hammond and Paul or SHP) of all our school buildings. The result of this assessment will provide a “cost of doing nothing” to our facilities infrastructure over the next five years, as well as a detailed plan for repair and maintenance and the cost of making these repairs (for example - the cost of putting a new roof on Miamitown Elementary).
B. Community Engagement (Jan. 2017 – June, 2017): Multiple town-hall style meetings – the first of which will be taking place Tuesday, Jan. 17 at the Activity Center (7PM). We need as many folks as possible to be part of this endeavor. Please look to join us for this event and maybe bring a friend!
C. Voter Analytics (July – November, 2017): Working with the different neighborhoods and stakeholders of our community will be ongoing, but really addressed starting in July – in terms of messaging and feedback. More to come on this front, as we get closer to spring…
John C. Hamstra
Southwest Local Schools