Board to Vote on Attendance Committee Recomendation Monday, Jan 27

  1. Commitee Recommendation Breakdown
  2. Video Clip of Board Discussion on 1/13/2020
  3. Impact: Class Section Reductions and Class Size Increases
  4. Impact: Program Changes
  5. Questions: Where is the Program Data?
  6. Impact: Prairie View Dilemma and Open Enrollment
  7. Upcoming Meeting with Citizen Input on 1/27/2020

Commitee Recomendation on 1/6/2020
The attendance committee discussed all possible attendance maps and was asked to evaluate two additional maps on seven different criteria. Ultimately the two most recent maps (New Option A and New Option D) earned overwhelming support. The committee facilitator asked the committee to narrow these two choices into a final recommendation for the WGSD Board. The Attendance Committee members voted almost 2-to-1 (8 to 5) in favor of Option D that is the Map with Tichigan and without Fox Knoll. An obvious problem with Option A is that the largest school Woodfield (which has lots of breakout rooms and 4 classrooms more than Trailside) would end up having the least enrollment. When asked, all committee members that supported Option D stated their decision was based on disrupting the fewest number of students.

Video Clip and Timeline of Board Discussion on 1/13/2020
0:00 Review of committee recomendation
6:41 Class sections, class size, grandfather and intra-district transfers
12:45 Equal access to services at each building
17:54 Prairie View Neighborhood
27:43 Individual board member feelings

Class Section Reductions and Class Size Increases
Some of the comments during the Board discussion are hard to hear, but the main detail seems to be that grade level sections that were denoted with a 2/3 would likely remain at 3 sections (listen at 7:10 in video clip above). With this assumption noted, there would still be a reduction of six classroom sections (four at Woodfield in grades 2-5 and two at Evergreen in grades 4 and 5). There would be only one grade level increase at Trailside, that being grade 1.

Based on these District numbers (summarized below) the net change is a loss of five classroom sections. As a result, more than 22 of the District’s class sizes will increase between 5 and 8 students each, 11 classes will remain about the same, and 10 sections will be reduced between 2 and 4 students each. For the 22 class sizes that will increase, the average increase in class size is between 30% and 40%. That is a very large increase for more than half of the district’s K-5 classrooms. Considering recent changes in classroom instruction, such as this year’s adoption of the i-Ready program that demands integrated instruction practices to meet the needs of a variety of different learners, this increase is astonishing. Another concern with such large class sizes is flexible seating. It would seem that most classes would have to return to the traditional assigned rows due to the space that is needed for flexible seating to work well.

From the meetings I have attended, the information the District has posted, and the meeting videos I have watched, the impact of these class size increases has received little to no discussion. One can argue that the Attendance Committee’s charge was to just balance out the building enrollment and let the school board and administration worry about the rest, but I doubt many would feel good about these unintended consequences of their recommendation.

Below is my summary comparing current enrollment with the expected attendance changes based on the District’s data for “Option D + Tichigan – Fox Knoll”. For those that are curious, you can view the WGSD Class Size Policy HERE.

It is hard not to concur with the Attendance Committee and the School Board’s initial comments that the least disruptive option is “Option D + Tichigan – Fox Knoll”, but it also hard to agree with the elimination of six teaching sections at Woodfield and Evergreen and the resulting large increase in class sizes. These numbers will certainly change before the 2020-21 school year as: 1) new families move into the WGSD district, 2) the School Board makes final decisions on grandfathering, and 3) the School Board approves new open enrollment applications (currently on hold). The problem is that every one of those unknowns will only cause class sizes to increase, not decrease.

Where is the Program Data?
As referenced in the Racine Journal Times article, the District has repeatedly redirected the discussion to the Attendance Committee’s charge. Among other charges, the goal in creating new attendance boundaries is to provide equal access to services and other changes that are in the “best interest of all students”. But since we know imbalances exist, where is the data showing how the changes in school attendance areas will improve the situation? How can the School Board even discuss, and how can the community provide feedback, without first seeing these numbers and a discussion about them in open session?

The program change most often cited is a reduction in the number of “doubles” for the physical education classes. Currently the two physical education teachers at Woodfield and Evergreen have several “doubles” where two classes share the gym at the same time. This isn’t near as big of an issue for the lower grades where the class sizes are smaller, the kids are smaller, and they move with less force. Fortunately the doubles in grades 3 through 5 will be eliminated next year even if no school attendance areas are changed. The reason is that three sections of sixth grade students from Woodfield and Trailside will automatically be moved to Fox River Middle School next year. The fix isn’t always this easy, as the numbers for specials (phy ed, music, art, etc), guidance/counseling services, and even administration don’t always fit the current staff levels. But will the overall change be a benefit? Is an improvement made if counseling and special class levels are more reasonable, but classroom sizes are much less reasonable?

In addition to the aforementioned, there are entire programs such as EC (Early Childhood) and LEAP (primarily for students on the autism spectrum) that are contained in a single building. This means that some students in one building attendance area have to attend a different elementary building due to the program they participate in.

Questions that Need Answers:
How will each of these programs and special class levels change next year with 6th grade shifting to Fox River? How will each of these programs and special class levels change next year if the School Board adopts the committee’s recommendation of “Option D + Tichigan – Fox Knoll”? How many grade level teacher positions will be eliminated? How many positions will need to be hired if programs currently offered at one building are now offered at two, or three buildings? Where is the data and how could Attendance Committee members and now School Board members vote on new school attendance boundaries without these answers?

While some may argue that these questions can be answered once the attendance areas are changed, it seems this is a case of “putting the cart in front of the horse”. Is the District trying to cut expenses by reducing teacher sections in an attempt to fund these other programs at additional buildings? Which of the concerns/problems will be resolved next year when 6th grade shifts to Fox River? Will EC and LEAP be at all three buildings next year? If EC and LEAP are going from one building to two buildings, but not all three buildings, has the goal been met? How will programs related to Title funds change if Trailside loses that designation and those funds are distributed throughout the district? What are the current counseling, social worker, school psych, LMS, etc. loads and how will they change? Maybe the School Board and Community should see this data before a decision is made. Everyone has a different idea of what transparency in government is, but these are very basic and should have been provided by administration to the Attendance Committee and community on day one.

The Prairie View Dilemma and Open Enrollment
Although one of the charges of the Attendance Committee was to “not split” neighborhoods, the refusal to move Open Enrollment students from one school to another has created an interesting dilemma in the Prairie View subdivision. This subdivision is split between two school districts, Waterford and Burlington. All options discussed by the Attendance Committee would force WGSD’s Woodfield families on the west side of the neighborhood to Trailside next year. At the same time administration has refused to even discuss moving out-of-district “open enrollment” families from their current schools. So in the case of the Prairie View neighborhood, Burlington students that live on the east side of the neighborhood will continue to attend Woodfield while their WGSD classmates down the block will be welcomed next year only by a bus going to Trailside. Of course, the School Board may consider grandfathering anyone that is willing to provide their own transportation, but at this point the only reference has been to grandfathering this year’s 4th graders so they don’t have three different schools in three years.

Upcoming Meeting with Citizen Input on Monday, January 27th
Once a month the WGSD holds its business meeting where citizens can address the board with their concerns before the board votes on action items. Tomorrow’s board agenda includes this topic:

6.06 Take action to accept Recommendation D+ of the Area Attendance Committee. Recommendation D+ maintains existing attendance boundaries between the Woodfield and Evergreen areas. The area of the Tichigan Peninsula which is currently part of the Evergreen attendance area will become part of the Trailside attendance area. The area South of the Wind Lake canal and East of the Fox River which is currently part of the Woodfield attendance area will become part of the Trailside attendance area.

I have done my best to summarize the key issues with an emphasis on concerns that I feel are shared by many families. Please consider sharing your concerns with the School Board in person during citizen comments or by sending them an email. I believe our WGSD School Board is exceptional and are truly interested in your feedback on this issue. As always, your comments will be best received if they are delivered in a respectful manner.

Posted by Matt Kranich on 1/26/2020
WGSD Parent
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