The School Task Force Committee has officially issued their Educational Impact Statement and are prepared to vote to close Lewisboro Elementary School on Thursday, January 23 2014. On December 19th in an initial vote five BOE members agreed to close LES and 2 voted to not close it at this point. The EIS has two redistricting scenarios (explained below) but the board voted on 1/9 to move forward with scenario 2. This will cause more Increase Miller students to be displaced (from 46 - 94):
165 Lewisboro Elementary School students would be redistricted to Increase Miller Elementary School
118 Lewisboro Elementary School students would be redistricted to Meadow Pond
67 Lewisboro Elementary School students would be redistricted to Katonah Elementary
Approximately 46 Increase Miller Elementary School students would be redistricted to Katonah
The second redistricting option has the following scenario:
214 Lewisboro Elementary School students would be redistricted to Increase Miller Elementary School
136 Lewisboro Elementary School students would be redistricted to Meadow Pond
No Lewisboro Elementary School students would be redistricted to Katonah Elementary
94 Increase Miller Elementary School students would be redistricted to Katonah
Please come to the only official and only required public hearing on January 16th at 7:30pm in the John Jay Middle School Theater and then the official BOE vote on 1/23. We have less than 2 weeks to influence what happens to our children, to our Katonah-Lewisboro Elementary schools and to our community!
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We have a number of concerns with the data is being used to make the decision to close Lewisboro Elementary School including the following:
Demographic Projections - The demographic analysis that is being used by the BOE to make their decision is based upon assumptions and a methodology that is not appropriate for our district. It assumes a linear declining enrollment when historical data illustrates our district has been through multiple peak and valley cycles. In addition, it is leveraging a methodology that forecasts based upon birth rates - but in this district most homeowners move into the community after they have one or more children as it is cost-prohibitive for many otherwise. The analysis is also based upon a 5 year period (2007-2012) during one of the worst periods of economic recession and does not consider the projected real estate growth. This could result in us closing a school when we are at the bottom of a cycle - only to need to reopen a school in a couple of years - a costly and unlikely proposal considering the NYS Tax Cap. Two different community members have performed separate assessments on the demographics - First "Advancing the Dialog on Future Elementary Enrollment: Request for Extension" - a presentation to the Board of Education by community members Claire Aldrich and Satya Nitta. Another community member compiled this document which highlights issues with the demographer's report. Also see attached for the projected real estate projections.
Overall Time for Decision and Implementation - The KLSD BOE will formally vote to close LES on January 23, 2014 and prepare to do this in time for September 2014 school year. The district has many initiatives underway including the introduction of full-say kindergarten, rollout of common core, upgrade of new technology, new teachers contracts and benefits - The ability for our district to implement a school closure with the needed amount of energy, focus, and thoughtfulness is a major concern for the community and another reason to wait a year.
Redistricting Plan - The first redistricting proposal had LES children moving into three schools and breaking neighborhood lines. To accommodate a more thoughtful approach, the BOE was revised their redistricting plan to limit the movement of LES children to IMES and Meadow Pond. This now moves 94 children from Increase Miller to Katonah. This redistricting has children from the northern end of the district attending KES and still has awkward redistricting boundaries across south salem. If we waited a year we would have a better way to managing the redistricting across natural community and neighborhood boundaries.
Traffic Analysis - there have been school bus and commuter accidents on 35- two in the past week - we need to consider higher traffic patterns at routes 121/31 and 123/35 and in and out of the two school (IMES and MPES). Turning left on Route 35 during the morning commute is a stressful and dangerous activity for normal commuters - our children will be put at greaters risk on a daily basis. A traffic analysis should be performed to understand the impact and risks.
Affect on Common Core - no analysis has been done to understand how teachers will manage the implementation of a school closing during the first year of common core rollout. There are many teachers that have indicated to parents off the record that there is limited ability for them to successfully manage this during the spring of 2014 - there has been no consideration by the BOE to this issue.
Class Sizes - All research related to common core indicates that class sizes should be smaller than in the past. In addition with the first year of common core just underway - small class sizes allow teachers to be able to provide the necessary level of individual accommodations required with RTI level 1 as well as their ability to learn and teach a brand new curriculum. This is not the time to be adding 1/3 new students to the classroom as proposed in many cases.
Capacity - The current redistricting model proposes 20 classrooms at meadow pond but the maps show there are only 19 classrooms available. This will require temporary housing to be leveraged on day 1. It does not make sense to close a school and require temporary housing within the first week. In addition, the demographic analysis does not consider any rebound of the housing market and a sudden sale of a few houses could introduce much risk with capacity at meadow pond and increase miller.
Vision of the District - Closing an elementary school is something that should be done as a last resort when we are in a dire position - it is being introduced as a highly tactical activity with no thought to a future vision for our district. Community members continue to ask how this fits into a future vision but this has never been answered.
South Salem Community: We have had little alignment between the town board and the school board over hte impact of closing a school to the overall community. Over 40 businesses have signed a petition regarding their concerns with the pace at which this decision is being made with a request to slow it down. This petition was presented to the board of education on November 20th - see attached summary. We need more conversations around the impact to the community, local businesses, the decline in property values, and the resulting impact to the tax levy. Without discussions and strategies at the community level - this decision is considering only the financial impact to the school budget. See the attached article in the Lewisboro Ledger detailing the letter the town board submitted to the school board - http://www.lewisboroledger.com/8640/town-enters-closure-fracas/.
Financial Benefit - The benefits for this closure have been continuously reduced during the last few months and still do not consider additional costs to build out temporary housing, move the district offices, additional transportation needs, new insurance requirements or other costs to close a school. The community recognizes the need to reduce the overall costs of running our schools and the benefits that available money will have on adding programs - however Mike Jumper stated that we are in good financial position for the next couple of years due to some of the contract renegotiations and natural teacher attrition we are seeing. In addition at hte first board meeting Dr. Kreutzer indicated the school closure is "not about the money". It is clearly not something that we urgently need to do and the community is merely asking that we slow down and consider all aspects more closely. There has been no consideration on what "revenue-generating" opportunities might exist such as using LES as a for-profit pre-k program.
Without all of this insight, the community is struggling to understand why we need to rush this decision. Even an esteemed educator we contacted gave similar advice to our district on why and how to most effectively approach closing a school - see attached article. http://bedford.patch.com/groups/save-katonah-lewisboro-schools/p/there-goes-the-neighborhood-real-questions-about-school-closing?ncid=newsltuspatc00000001&newsRef=true. In addition, our neighboring town Ridgefield stopped the school closure process they had underway due to a surprise increase in enrollment and in an effort to bring more transparency and engagement with the community - see article http://www.newstimes.com/local/article/Talk-of-closing-a-Ridgefield-school-put-on-hold-4994284.php
Data Integrity Issues: There have been a number of data integrity issues highlighted throughout this process that could be indicative of rushing or poor communication. These include the following:
#1: Cost Savings: KLSD presentations repeatedly included an estimate of cost savings from closing of LES at $2.25M. However, this number was revised to $1.7M - an overstatement of 45%. Further, despite repeated requests, KLSD has not provided the community with a breakdown of these savings. See attached analysis for more details.
#2: District Enrollment: In three separate charts, KLSD erroneously placed the “red line” separating actual enrollment from projected enrollment. This repeated error creates a false impression of steeply declining enrollment in the district, the elementary schools, and Grade 1 vs. Grade 12. However, corrected placement of the actual/projected line actually shows increasing enrollment at LES generally and in first grade districtwide. See attached analysis for more details.
#3: Peak Enrollment: Dr. Kreutzer presented a chart showing peak enrollment and stated, "By plotting each of the schools, we account for any redistricting and movement of students within the district.” The accompanying slide does not properly account for redistricting, and a previous slide on peak enrollment double-counted students. In addition, it is misleading to use outdated peak figures - representing schools at full capacity or more - rather than average enrollment and best practices for class sizes, to illustrate target enrollment or determine an efficient number of students in the school. See attached analysis for more details.