RSCC talks possible options around closures, grade configurations

RSCC talks possible options around closures, grade configurations
The future of East Middle School is one of the issues on the table for Redistricting and School Closure Committee. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO)

The Redistricting and School Closure Committee began looking at pros and cons of possible options this past week, though the group acknowledged these possibilities weren’t recommendations.

The committee has been tasked with developing and presenting multiple options for comprehensive redistricting and school closures to the Board of Education and the superintendent this fall, and is composed of five parents; two members of the business community; one member of county government; two school system employee group representatives; three members of the CCPS staff; and a paid facilitator, David Lever, the former executive director of a nonpartisan state agency.


Lever went over the range of options for discussion, from least disruptive to most at the June 28 meeting.

Before any options were discussed though, he said, there is always the option to do nothing.

“Does anyone think that’s an option to be considered?” he asked the group, but no one on the RSCC indicated they thought that was the route to go, Lever included.

The first possibility Lever laid out was accepting existing facility configurations, with improvements on individual program spaces. This would involve looking at all educational programs, determining their special needs, looking at all facility conditions and developing a priorities plan of corrections.

Lever said there would be pros to the approach, because it’s important education improvement for select student groups, which would have the least overall cost. And with incremental implementation, there wouldn't be disturbance of schools, feeder patterns or transportation.

But, he said, this plan would not address overall facility conditions, doesn’t affect the majority of students, does not improve school efficiencies or feeder patterns, does not improve the disparities of utilization among schools and could cause controversy over what is prioritized.

Mike Hardesty, the director of CCPS Transportation Services, said that type of in-depth facility study is “way beyond” what this committee could do. He said he thought this is something they could bring to the school board as a recommendation for them to do, but not something RSCC could handle.

The second possibility discussed was closing one school, likely an elementary. At the first June meeting, RSCC discussed possible elementary school closures, and looked at Sandymount Elementary School as an option.

With this possibility, pros included improving efficiencies, improving utilization of facilities and improving overall condition of school facilities, Lever said. Cons included possible higher bus ride times, disruptions to one or more feeder patterns, possibly capital projects and possible disruption of education programs at schools who take in students from the closed school.

Vaughn Paylor, a parent of a Winters Mill High School student and a member of the county’s NAACP chapter, said giving up a building could be a positive depending on what else it can be used for.

But, CCPS Facilities Planner Bill Cain said, the county commissioners have already said any unused building turned over to them will be demolished.

“They’re struggling to deal with two properties turned over to them [from] last time,” Cain said.

The third option dealt with East Middle, and in that discussion included four possibilities. The first would be to retain the current facility and fix the deficiencies within a defined budget and schedule, Lever said.

This would be positive, because the scope of the budget could be tailored, he said. But, this concept could be difficult or impossible to relocate students during the work, could cost a lot even for minimal work, could disrupt the learning environment, phasing in could come with increased costs, it could be an insufficient fix because of budget restraints, he said.


The next possibility would be to have a large middle school and close William Winchester Elementary School and redistrict those students, close East Middle School and redistrict those students and move them into West Middle School, something that would be possible if the sixth grade was moved into its own building in what is now the William Winchester Elementary School, Lever said.

This could work, he said, because there would be small changes to the bus routes, there’d be gained efficiencies of schools and also in to the overall condition of schools, and CCPS would avoid expensive capital costs for East Middle.

But, redistricting William Winchester would be disruptive to the community and include transportation costs, CCPS would have very large middle schools, and sixth grade would be separated and required to be outside to move between buildings, he said.

Cain also pointed out that behind East Middle, William Winchester and West Middle are close behind on the list of buildings that need significant capital projects. And, he said, the buildings will deteriorate faster with more kids in them because they’ll be taking more abuse.

The third possibility for the East Middle problem would be to move eighth grade to high schools, and consolidate sixth and seventh grades, Lever said. With this option, they would close East Middle and redistrict sixth and seventh to West Middle, something that would require a minor addition to work. Then, all eighth-graders from East and West middle schools would be moved into Winters Mill and Westminster high schools.

Lever said the pros of this option would be gaining efficiencies in the school system and the overall condition of school facilities, and avoidances of an expensive capital project for East Middle.

But, he said, the subcommittee that looked into grade configuration during May found that moving eighth graders to high school could have negative effects, and that administrators weren’t supportive of the plan. It would also require extensive redistricting, and the school system would have to deal with avery large middle school.

The last option for East Middle that Lever discussed was using Winters Mill High School as a middle school for current East Middle School students, and redistricting the Winters Mill students into other high schools.

The pros of this option include efficiencies of condition of school facilities and the school system, avoiding an expensive East Middle capital project and minimal change to travel patterns, he said. Cons include extensive redistricting of Winters Mill students, required targeted renovations at Winters Mill and likely community opposition to moving the Winters Mill students.

The final option was comprehensive redistricting, but RSCC did not have enough time to tackle the topic after already meeting for more than three hours Thursday. The committee will meet again in two weeks, on July 12, in the boardroom in CCPS Central Office in Westminster.