Referendum passes, truth comes out about extra class space

Even though enrollment is down, we were told that classrooms were crowded. The district (with Yes281’s help) succeeded in grabbing more of our tax dollars to hire 40 more teachers. Now we’re told that we have extra classroom space, and they may close three schools. This from the Star Tribune:

The Robbinsdale School District has enough extra classroom space to consider closing up to three schools, according to district consultants.

The findings, presented to the school board Saturday, don’t necessarily mean three schools will be closed. But consultants Wold Architects and Engineers and demographer Hazel Reinhardt told board members that cutting down on excess space could allow the district to close two elementary schools and one middle school. In part, the extra space is because of lower-than-expected student enrollment.

Initially, the district had planned on saving $800,000, equivalent to closing one elementary school, despite getting voters to approve a levy request last November that gives the district $9.4 million a year over the next seven years.

Board Chairwoman Patsy Green said she was surprised the district had the space available to get by with three fewer schools. “In the past, the most we’ve looked at is one to two school closings,” she said.

Consultants will present cost-saving scenarios to the board next month, said district spokesman Jeff Dehler. Green said she wants to hear those before making any decisions on closing more than one school.

The board considered closing a school last year after coming up short in a 2007 referendum effort, but decided to make other cuts instead.

Public meetings next month will gather input on the cost-cutting scenarios, and the board has tentatively set Jan. 20 as the date when it will decide which and how many schools to close, Dehler said.

The consultants will present their findings at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 16, at Plymouth Middle School, and at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18, at Robbinsdale Middle School.

Thanks to a dedicated 281Exposed reader for sending the article above. They added in their e-mail:

Also, according to the school lobbyist, more cuts were planned, even with the referendum, so hopefully closing additional schools will prevent that — and another referendum.

Speed Gibson also questions the lower class size benefits myth:

The battle shaping up is again: neighborhood schools vs. lower class sizes. We now know quite a bit more about the former, both operationally and financially. Unfortunately, we know relatively little about the latter. It’s not a level debating field.

Instead, we have little more than supposition that the benefits of lower class sizes are significant. Are they? Which is the better investment of the $800,000 involved: keeping a neighborhood school open or slightly lowering the class sizes in the remaining schools?

To date, District 281 considers the the case closed, that the benefits of smaller class sizes are obvious and axiomatic. Apparently they have to be, because there sure doesn’t seem to be much actual evidence, you now, like a contracted study.

Before the District makes any further decisions, I’d like to see them spend a little more on a study quantifying the benefits of closing still more schools to lower class sizes.

Another paid study will help, since our school board chair Patsy Green was unaware of the extra space actually available in the district she’s making decisions in.

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5 Responses to “Referendum passes, truth comes out about extra class space”

  1. maryjanedoh Says:

    Nice job 281X – sure the Strib provided the story, but your expert analysis is what I like to see here.

    I read a similar story in tonight’s Sun Post, then immediately vomitted.
    OK, I’ve been suffering a bout with the flu, but have managed not to blow out all week up until I read that article.

    No wonder my immune system couldn’t fight this off – it’s all broken down from the constant bombardment of more taxes, every way I turn. I watch 25% of my paycheck disappear to taxes right off the top every week, and the city has encroached a 4% user fee onto my gas & electric bills.

    All this after having lost my job to an act of illegal outsourcing – or “offshoring” as they put it. After 2 years of hunting and being deemed “over-qualified” for hundreds of jobs, I’m lucky to have a menial, barely above minimum wage desk job.

    Referendums, bailouts, corruption, incompetence – it’s comin’ at me from everywhere. I have no plans to give up and cave in, only to become part of the problem. This Old Dog will keep fighting with every breath.

    Fighting for Freedom, Lower Taxes, Accountability, Quality Education for a Reasonable Cost, and yes, for Change, starting at the local level.

  2. give2get Says:

    MJ,
    What specific changes would you like to see at the local level ? Thanks
    Give2Attain

  3. 281careless Says:

    MJD, I understand your feelings about the economy. I too am sick to death of our corporations turning against our own citizens in order to make a quick buck. Hopefully our new administration can begin to get our greedy CEOs and politicans to refocus and help the middle class of this country. (the difference between the Super rich and the poor continues to escalate at record levels. The top 5% earn 80% of all of the money now.) I agree that we finally have hope to move forward and get our society focused on providng services for everyone, not just the elite. We can’t keep funding corporate greed! We can’t ingnore our puclic school system and let it slip into the hands of these greedy business opportunitists. We must keep them out of our education system.

  4. give2get Says:

    The discussion on class size is continuing on. (Class size blog string) However I want to ask readers of 281 Exposed. What do you think are acceptable class sizes by grade? Do you want the district spending tax dollars to fund studies to determine if having 35-40 4th graders in a class makes sense?

    Seems intuitive to me that 35-40 is too high after spending sometime volunteering in the classrooms. Just wondering what others think.

    Here is where we are at on Speed’s:
    To paraphrase what I’ve heard: K~20, 1st~21, 2nd~22, 3rd~24, & for general education classes from 4th to 12th grade the class size should be 35-40 students. These are not to exceed numbers, so we add a class when necessary. Assuming: good teacher, enough space, enough equipment, typical mix of RAS students.

    Here was my previous guess of what typical parents want: K:~20 3rd: ~24 6th:~28 9th:~33. These are not to exceed numbers, so we add a class when necessary. It seems our largest gap is in the 4th – 8th grade range. So the research we are looking for is:

    Relevant differences of having 4th to 8th graders in class sizes of 25-30 vs 35-40.

    Simplistic as this is… Is this what we are debating? Speed is this the study you want our tax dollars spent on? Or have we wandered from your original request?

  5. give2get Says:

    Sorry the bold was to go to the bottom…

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