Archive for Wednesday, April 9, 2003

School District to consider next steps

April 9, 2003

Feeling the ills of an increasing student enrollment, two times the Basehor-Linwood School District asked voters to approve a $29.9 million bond issue.

Two times voters said no, the second time by more than the first.

Now less than two weeks after the most recent failed proposal, school board members and school officials are left to decide how to deal with schools nearing capacity levels, including one already over capacity.

"We have to assess available space, ask ourselves where do we have available space, how much do we have and what is the best way to utilize it," School District superintendent Cal Cormack said.

Basehor and Linwood elementary schools are in the 90-percent capacity range. Glenwood Ridge, with a capacity of 303 students, is overflowing with 311 students.

The school board will host its regular meeting Monday, April 14, with one of the night's discussion items listed as considering alternative measures in lieu of the failed bond.

Those alternatives are considered short-term solutions to a long-term problem.

With several residential developments proposing 500 houses or more, school officials realize a burgeoning student enrollment is a problem not soon going away.

The school district is already projecting a four to five percent enrollment increase for next year, equaling approximately 80 to 100 new students.

"We have to seriously ask ourselves what is it we have to do to meet our responsibility to provide a quality education to our kids," Cormack said.

Alternative measures vary, but proposals to alleviate overcrowding could include the following:

  • Moving eighth grade students to the high school: this would include sectioning off eighth graders within the high school and making them "a school within a school," Cormack said.
  • Adding modular classrooms: perhaps the least favored by school officials of all alternatives. School officials consider adding modular classrooms a waste of money.

"I wouldn't expect this board to (consider) that as an option," Cormack said.

  • Using the Basehor-Linwood Charter School for some classes: perhaps the most viable of all options.

School officials said using the Charter School for some classes would free up space at Basehor Elementary School, where projections indicate the highest enrollment spike will take place.

A change that hasn't been discussed by school district administration, but which could be considered in the future is making drastic changes at the combination elementary/middle school facility in Linwood.

Cormack said the school board could consider a plan that would make what's currently Linwood Elementary School, into a wing for all sixth-graders.

LES students would then be shipped to Basehor or Glenwood Ridge elementaries.

"It's intriguing," Cormack said. "At least it's something we need to give some thought to.

"But it does have some appeal," he added.

During the special election Jan. 25 and the general election April 1, Basehor-Linwood voters rejected the bond issue by resounding totals.

The funds would have paid for a new Basehor-Linwood Middle School and renovations to Basehor, Linwood and Glenwood elementaries.

Under Kansas law, school district officials cannot bring another bond issue before the voting populace until January 2004.

Cormack said a new bond issue proposal must be a joint venture between the school district and the public.

"I don't think the board of education believes for a minute this community doesn't want to support education," he said. "We're not blaming the community. We know these are uncertain economic times and that it may not be a good time to commit to new taxes.

"But how do we work together to meet our responsibility to provide quality education? We're very much wanting to reach out to the community," Cormack said.

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