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Board of Education (BOE) School Plant Planning Committee Meeting

Thursday, April 4, 2024

By Barbara Heimlich
Editor

Background: The BOE School Plant Planning Committee has for many years collected data on our schools, but never consolidated the information to come up with a formal plan to prepare for the future. SLAM was hired by Dr.Uyi Osunde to pull together all those pieces to create scenarios that would make the best sense for the Stratford School System in the future. SLAM’s presentation has truncated the existence of a plan which we have ignored for years. Lot’s of data collected through the years, never 1 document!

On Thursday the BOE and members of the public, attended a presentation by SLAM, the consulting firm hired to review the Stratford School System.  According to the SLAM website, their “team of design thinkers have an infinite drive to solve complex design problems in new and creative ways. A force of energy, our team actively listens, probes, talks and plans. We explore, exchange ideas, and iterate solutions with our clients. SLAM’s discovery-driven planning method guides our signature charettes, diving deep with clients and stakeholders. A messy but key phase where shared ideas are unlocked, hurdles are overcome, innovation flows, and the big idea is synthesized.  Drawing on a medley of data-driven benchmarking tools, performance metrics, and human behaviors, we create spaces that allow our clients to thrive, to excel, to lead.”

Recap of Capacity & Utilization Study

Elementary Schools

  • Elementary enrollment projected to decline slightly from 2023-24 levels over the next decade.
  • Uneven distribution of headroom/space across elementary buildings.
  • Chapel school attendance zone is undersized, leading to low utilization.
  • Administrative placement policies are needed to efficiently utilize space under K-6 model.
  • Johnson House attendance zone is too large for the school’s capacity, leading to significant number of administrative placements to other attendance zones.
  • Administrative placements exacerbate enrollment pressures at other buildings.
  • Creates uncertainty for families who move into Johnson House attendance zone, as they may be assigned to another school based on available space.
  • Not enough classrooms at Lordship to function as a 2-section per grade K-6 school
  • Need 14 classrooms to function as a 2-section per grade school. Even if ABA program were relocated, Lordship only has 12 classrooms available.

Middle and High Schools

  • Middle school enrollment is projected to decrease by about 6% over the next decade. High school enrollment is projected to experience a decrease of 12%, or ~275 students.
  • Middle School utilization is projected to average about 70% over the next decade, with Wooster having a higher utilization (79%) than Flood (62%)
  • Not enough classroom space at the middle schools to support a 6-8 configuration.
  • Imbalanced feeder pattern with more students residing in the Wooster MS and Stratford HS feeder (55%) compared to Flood MS and Bunnell HS (45%).
  • Greater number of middle school students attend the smaller building at Wooster, while the larger building at Flood is underutilized.
  • Significant number of administrative placements at the high school level in order to balance enrollment.
  • Changes to the elementary attendance zones could better balance enrollment at the middle and high schools.

Primary Objective of the SLAM Study:

  • Strive for enrollment balance between facilities
  • Better utilization across elementary schools.
  • Strive for even feeder to middle and high schools.

Secondary Objective:

  • Improve racial balance/maintain compliance with state law.
  • Remove impending designations

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

  • Short term focus maintains existing grade configuration.
  • Explore long term options of moving 6th grade out of the elementary schools. Potential options include:  Convert Elementary School to 6th grade academy
  • Outline process next steps if wanting to pursue 6-8 configuration at middle schools
  • Maintain neighborhood school model to the extent possible.
  • Minimize disruption
  • Reduce administrative placements and better define policies
  • Under a K-6 neighborhood model, need to maintain administrative placements at Lordship, since it is not large enough to accommodate 2 sections per grade (14 classrooms).
  • Even if ABA were relocated, Lordship only has 12 full-sized classrooms available for instruction, with 3 classrooms reserved for support services.
  • Consider secondary/flex zones – tool to better address enrollment/transiency/racial balance where a secondary school is assigned to a particular neighborhood if needed for overflow/staffing purpose.
  • Special Programs:  All students enrolled in districtwide special programs (ABA, STEPS, PDLC, etc.) remain in current buildings unless otherwise noted. 
  • If programs are moved, alternative appropriate locations were determined in consultation with SPS Administration
  • Note that shifts in locations of districtwide special programs change the capacity of buildings

APPROACHES

SLAM presented 5 Scenario’s to move our schools into the future. The 65-page document will be broken down into segments for publication so that all of the information is able to be reviewed. We will begin with Scenario 1 for Elementary Schools. For those interested in reviewing the document and listening to the on-line video please go to:

Video: https://youtube.com/live/pUfJ-jwkbHo?feature=share

Agenda: https://5il.co/2hrh

Scenario_Planning_2024-04-06 (2)

Scenario 1 Elementary

Traditional Redistricting

  • Maintain contiguous attendance zones.
  • Balance utilization across all buildings.
  • Maintain compliance with state racial balance law
  • All students returned to their zoned school, except districtwide special programs and DL program at Second Hill Lane.
  • No changes to locations of districtwide special programs.
  • Establish secondary “flex” zone to ensure efficient use and racial balance at Lordship.
  • Larger Chapel attendance zones.
  • Smaller Johnson House attendance zone
  • Minor changes to other attendance zones
  • “Flex Zone” established for Lordship to guide administrative placements.
  • Underlying area zoned for Johnson House. However, new students in this flex zone may be administratively placed in Lordship for enrollment and racial balance purposes.
  • Projections assume ~105 students from this area are administratively assigned to Lordship. (slightly higher than today)

Change Areas

  • 396 K-5 students would be impacted by redistricting*.
  • 217 reassigned through redistricting
  • 179 out of area placements returned to zoned school.
  • An additional 105 students would be reassigned to Lordship via the “Flex Zone.” Could target new registrations and reduce redistricting impact.
  • Excludes existing Dual Language students who attend Second Hill Lane.

Note that 6th grade students would not be impacted by elementary redistricting since they would matriculate up to the middle school

Elementary Utilization

  • Better enrollment balance across all elementary buildings, with all schools below 95% utilization over the first five-year period.
  • Ranges from a low of 82% at Lordship, Johnson House and Wilcoxson to a high of 93% at Chapel and Franklin.
  • Enrollment balance projected to remain over the second five-year period, with similar ranges to the first five years.

Scenario 1 Utilization Balance

  SchoolFirst 5 Year Avg2nd 5 Year Avg  Capacity
Chapel93%93%447
Eli Whitney86%86%510
Franklin93%92%319
Lordship82%83%213
Nichols84%83%447
Second Hill Lane89%89%663
Stratford Academy – Johnson House82%83%574
Wilcoxson82%81%362
Districtwide Total87%87%3,535

Note – greatest confidence in the first 5 years

Capacity at Eli Whitney was increased from 489 to 510 due to SPARK Program not moving forward.

Racial Balance

All elementary schools would have been compliant with State Racial Balance Law over the last five years. However, some schools are approaching imbalance.

  • Franklin and Johnson House have the highest percentage of students of color and would both be in the Impending category. However, for both schools, the deviation from the districtwide average is decreasing.
  • Wilcoxson has the lowest percentage of students of color but is classified as a “Diverse School” and therefore meets state requirements.

Scenario 1 Racial Balance: Historic Lookback

Scenario 1 School2023-245-Year AvgDeviation Trend
ChapelDiverse SchoolDiverse SchoolDecreasing
Eli WhitneyDiverse SchoolDiverse SchoolDecreasing
FranklinImpendingImpendingDecreasing
LordshipDiverse SchoolDiverse SchoolIncreasing
NicholsBalancedBalancedAbout the Same
Second Hill LaneDiverse SchoolDiverse SchoolAbout the Same
Stratford Academy Johnson HouseImpendingImpendingDecreasing
WilcoxsonDiverse SchoolDiverse SchoolIncreasing
Grand Total   

         Deviate from districtwide average by >15%        

Racial Balance CategoryRacial Balance Ranges (2023-24)
Racially BalancedBetween 75% and 89.6% students of color
Impending ImbalanceBetween 89.7% and 99.6% students of color
Racial ImbalanceLess than 25% OR Greater than 99.6% students of color
Diverse SchoolBetween 25% and 75% students of color

Editors Note:  Part II, Middle Schools, will be published next week.

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