Dear Community Members:
As you are aware the District bond vote is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, December 4, 2018. The proposed project would not increase the tax levy. We greatly respect the multiple perspectives that our community brings to deliberation on this matter, and our staff has been committed to responding to questions and concerns that have been raised. A great deal of information has been presented to the community in different formats and media in order to reach everyone. It is important to note that the vote that takes place now will impact our schools over the next few years. If the project is supported by the voters, there is a lengthy approval process, and the project would be completed at about the same time that our equivalent debt obligations are retired. Thus, this project has long-term implications for our District’s ability to meet future educational goals.
As part of our effort to provide as much information as possible in different ways, I wanted to provide some of the lived experience of our staff and students to offer a context for the proposal that we have asked the voters to consider.
Updating spaces at the elementary school for the performing arts and providing for active outdoor/indoor places for students
- Acknowledging that the gym and stage constructed in 1935 need to be renovated, we celebrate the participation of almost every fourth grade student in our band program, the wonderful dedication of our elementary music teachers who create so many opportunities for students to perform at each grade level, and the remarkable musical that is produced every year. Creating a more comfortable, safe environment for performers and parent spectators supports the goals we have for community engagement and student involvement. The innovative grade level additions for indoor-outdoor science and project-based learning enhance our ability to serve all students.
Basic renovation of infrastructure elements at the Middle School constructed in 1972
- The proposal includes replacement of windows and other infrastructure that no longer provides energy savings and have outlived their useful lives.
Engaging diverse interests and abilities of our students at the Middle School
- Wherever I walk in our schools, I see teachers who are seeking a way to connect students with learning by inspiring curiosity and confidence in their skills and urging them to take on challenges. Our efforts have led to deeper understanding of how the educational environment impacts the scope of our ability to achieve these goals. For example, middle schools are places that are particularly focused on projects and activities that lead students to questioning and hands-on expressions. The Active Learning Lab at the middle school is used in this way, but is now needed as a classroom, so some of our opportunities are now limited. That means that teachers who have a project that requires more movement and engagement do not have an option other than their classrooms. The ALL room should be available for science as well as other academic programs to permit a wide range of activities that cannot exist in the regular classrooms. The proposed project offers alternative classrooms for varied learning experiences.
Promoting twenty-first-century approaches to learning through inquiry, research, integration of technology
- There is a need at the middle school for a library-media center or learning commons as now conceived in modern educational institutions and that our students will access throughout college and career. A library is now conceived as a flexible space for research, reading, thinking independently or collaboratively, and even performing for small groups. Right now we have chairs and desks in the hallways that are named “independent learning stations.” Students adapt well, but there is limited opportunity for collaboration and feedback as students work on individual projects. The new model for libraries permits independent and group work and technology applications, similar to what we now see in the newly configured High School library.
Providing a comfortable, attractive and healthful space for student dining
- School provides opportunities for students to learn to socialize appropriately, and to eat healthy food in an environment that respects their dignity and teaches them the manners they require for success in their future endeavors. The renovation of the kitchen and cafeteria would reflect this need and promote the ability to cook and serve more attractive, various and nutritious food choices.
Honoring the performing arts as a way to support students in expressing their passions and emotions and inner life.
- Music, drama and dance offer students the platform for building their identity and confidence. The substantial participation by middle school students in the music ensembles and band as well as the annual musical suggest that this aspect of their learning process is critical to their growth and self-understanding. The expansion of the cafeteria performing and spectator space provides a safe and modern environment to support parents and students in enjoying their accomplishments. Practice areas would move from the area adjacent to the kitchen to a sound resistant space conducive to music study.
Health and Wellness Multi-Purpose Center:
- During our early discussions with the facilities committee, we struggled with how to accommodate needs of our athletic, physical education and community recreation programs while creating an affordable, flexible space that would offer multiple opportunities to enhance the emotional and physical wellness of our students. Research on adolescents indicates that habits of exercise and movement create a sense of optimism and well being that is a lifelong foundation for successful navigation of the normal challenges that life presents. We envisioned an all-weather space that could accommodate practices of wrestling and cheerleading and many other teams throughout the year while providing parents with weekend and after school programs to enjoy with their children. Supporting the District goal of “building relationships,” the health and wellness center would make a positive statement about our effort to engage students in a variety of activities to enhance their educational experience. For example, many of our classes now include projects that require space for various measurement and observation tasks. Our recess time at the middle school is limited by weather, and there are many physical education activities that could be provided in the new space, offering a greater variety of life-long healthy programs. The design allows for all weather exercise, including marked lanes for running and walking, and supports our social-emotional learning initiatives.
- It is important to note that this space was selected for consideration by the public because it was affordable, accessible to the Middle School and could connect with the High School utilizing the restrooms and locker rooms located there. A regulation gym would have been considerably more expensive and could not have served the varied activities that are reflected in this proposal.
Thank you for considering the District’s proposal.
The vote will take place tomorrow, Tuesday, December 4 from 6 am until 9 pm at the Elementary School.
Dr. Frances Wills
Superintendent of Schools