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At the March 10 meeting of the District 65 New School-Referendum Committee, administrators presented additional data that compared various projections of student enrollment with the space capacity of each of the District’s schools for the next five years. The analysis considered space needs using a variety of alternative assumptions, such as that each school would use all classrooms to manage enrollment; that each school would have a dedicated classroom for art only (but not music); that each school would have dedicated classrooms for both art and music; that each school would continue to use the same number of special education classrooms in the future as now; as well as other alternative assumptions.
Paul Brinson, chief information officer, explained the data tables and answered some preliminary questions. Committee members did not reach any conclusions on the data, but decided they would review the new data on their own before continuing with a further discussion on the District’s space needs.
Committee members also ranked eight topics (one of which was “other”) in terms of their priorities in making a decision on whether to recommend that the District establish a new school. The top four topics in order of their ranking were Financing/Funding, Space Needs, Community & Diversity Impact, and School Configuration/Governance.
A number of Committee members said they considered “equity” and “justice” to be high priority factors. They said many African American students in the Fifth Ward have lacked a neighborhood school since the mid-1960s when Foster School was closed as an attendance area school as part of the desegregation plan. Since that time hundreds of African American students in the Fifth Ward have been bused to other schools in the District.
Another Committee member said student success and student emotional growth should drive decisions on where a new school would be located and what the District should be offering.
The Committee is scheduled to meet again on March 24 at Fleetwood Jordain Community Center.