After months of study and community feedback, the ISD 279 School Board has approved Supt. Kate Maguire’s recommendation to reconfigure grade spans to preK/K-5, 6-8, 9-12 beginning in 2015-16. The recommendation includes a plan to gain the additional space needed to accommodate 9th graders in high school by building additions and repurposing space at each of the three comprehensive high schools – Maple Grove Senior High, Osseo Senior High, and Park Center Senior High.
Recommendation reflected community feedback
The final recommendation, presented to the School Board on March 18, reflected community and staff feedback received over the past few months. For example, participants in community information sessions expressed a strong preference for adding space at high schools to accommodate incoming 9th graders in order to avoid school boundary changes caused by grade configuration. Along with building additions, some work will need to be done to remodel or repurpose existing space in each high school.
In her presentation to the school board, Supt. Maguire also highlighted how feedback led to a special focus on transitions for students and staff. For example, each of our elementary schools will work to ensure that both 5th and 6th graders have some special events to commemorate their last year in elementary school and that they are prepared for the move to middle school.
How facility work will be financed
The additions, plus the remodeling/repurposing of some existing space, will be accomplished through capital budget planning, using state-authorized funding mechanisms, such as the lease levy, that are designed for such circumstances.
What about boundary changes?
It’s important to note that while changing grade spans will not result in boundary changes at any level, it does not mean that the district will never change school boundaries. Staff constantly monitors student enrollment and housing development. Periodic adjustments to school boundaries will continue to be necessary as populations shift in our communities and schools.
Planning will begin immediately so that grade span reconfiguration can be completed by September 2015. Staff already uses a regular annual planning cycle that incorporates many of the activities that will be needed. While a significant level of effort will be required to accomplish grade configuration, much of that work is already under way every year. In her presentation, Supt. Maguire called out aspects of planning that would be new work, extending beyond the regular planning cycle. Examples include planning teacher licensure transition, developing transition teams, designing a middle level program that better serves adolescent needs, and moving furniture and equipment.
In closing her presentation, Supt. Maguire said, “I do not make this recommendation lightly as I am committing our organization to transformational change which will require action. All along, I’ve noted that either course of action – staying with our current grade spans or changing grade spans – has benefits and challenges and that it is our responsibility to fully examine the implications of both choices to determine the best course of action for our students in the long run. Board members, in some regards, this is not the easiest course of action. But it is the course of action that will most benefit District 279 students far into the future.”