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net> Cc: Susan Guthrie <email@example.com> Subject: Important information regarding high school redistricting in LMSD
Dear Friends, I am writing to tell you about something I suspect you are relatively unaware, but that could affect your child(ren). LMSD is currently redistricting high school attendance boundaries and Board President Gilbert would like a final vote on Monday, April 15. INCORRECT – THE BOARD AND ADMINISTRATION HAVE BEEN DISCUSSING SINCE JUNE 2012 (TEN MONTHS AGO) STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS INCREASED ENROLLMENT IN OUR SCHOOOLS. THIS INCLUDES 24 MILLION DOLLARS IN CONSTRUCTION AND A PLAN TO SHIFT ENROLLMENT AT THE HIGH SCHOOLS. THERE IS NO REDRAWING OF ATTENDANCE LINE AND THEIR ACTIONS HAVE BEEN UNDERTAKEN TO *AVOID* REDISTRICTNG. FOR INSTANCE, PENN WYNNE HAS FOUR EXTRA CLASSROOMS AVAILABLE THAT ARE BEING USED AS MEETING AND MULTIPURPOSE SPACE. INSTEAD OF SHIFTING STUDENTS TO THOSE CLASSROOMS, WE ARE INSTEAD SPENDING THREE MILLION DOLLARS TO BUILD FOUR CLASSROOMS AT GLADWYNE. THAT IS NOT ‘REDISTRICTING’, THAT’S AVOIDING REDISTRICDTING. Below is an explanation of what’s going on in case you don’t know. The consequences of this vote are significant and not easily altered. The time to act is NOW. Please attend theApril 15 Board meeting to voice your concerns.Background: High school enrollments are projected to grow over the next 9 years. These projections suggest both Harriton and LMHS enrollments will exceed their physical capacities of 1400. The Board is considering a plan that would restore “choice” to those areas that lost the opportunity to attend LMHS during the 2008-09 redistricting, in effect undoing the 2009 redistricting decision in its entirety. THAT WOULD BE INCORRECT. THERE IS NO CHANGING OF ATTENDANCE ZONES. THIS STATEMENT IS CHARACTERIZING SOMETHING THAT ITS NOT. HOUSES DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM LOWER MERION HIGH SCHOOL WILL STILL BE ZONED TO HARRITON HIGH SCHOOL, FOR EXAMPLE. The stated rationale is that LMHS can accommodate additional students in the District Administrative Office (DAO) building—up to 400 more, but Harriton’s capacity is limited at 1400 students.
THAT IS CORRECT AND BOTH THE CAC AND THE BUIDLING PLANNING COMMITTEE KNEW AS EARLY AS 2005 OF THE EXCESS CAPACITY – CLASSROOMS THAT WERE IN USE FOR MANY YEARS PRIOR TO THE NEW BUILDING CONSTRUCTION AND WERE DEACTIVATED WHEN THE NEW BUILDING OPENED. THIS WAS JUST NEVER DISCLOSED TO THE PUBLIC BEFORE NOW. Here are the problems with this plan: 1. The process has been rushed and lacks transparency and community involvement. Redistricting was first mentioned at a Board meeting on January 28 -- as a comment-- by President Gilbert. Since then, there have been no Board meetings devoted to the proposed plan, no specific community feedback has been solicited, and the administration/board have not met with community groups -- e.g., Civics, HSAs, the ISC, etc-- to explain the redistricting plan. The topic has only been discussed at a few Board business or committee meetings since January 28and the published agendas for those meetings never referenced high school “redistricting,” but rather high school “enrollment,” or more vaguely “Policy 206.” THIS IS INCORRECT. DISCUISSIONS WERE HELD ON SHIFITNG ENROLLMENT AS EARLY AS JUNE OF 2012 AND IN OCTOBER 2012. IN FACT A COMMUNITY MEMBER POINTED OUT THE SHIFTING AND THE INCREASED CAPACIT Y IN THE OCTOBER 25 MEETING THAT MS. GUTHRIE WAS AT. SHE SEEMS TO FORGET THIS. ALSO THE RESULTS OF THE ENROLLMENT STUDY AND THE PROPOSED PLANS WERE PRESENTED TO: PENN VALLEY CIVIC ASSOCIATION – NOVEMBER 15, 2012 THE NEIGHBORHOOD CLUB OF BALA CYNWYD – DECEMGER 11, 2012 GLADWYNE ELEMENTARY COMMUNITY – NOVEMBER 27, 2012 MERION PARK CIVIC – JANUARY 10, 2013 ARDWOOD CIVIC – JANUARY 15, 2013 WELSH VALLEY PARENT COMMUNITY – FEBRUARY 28, 2013 ALL THESE PRESENTATIONS ARE VIEWABLE ON WWW.LMSD.ORG/ENROLLMENT-PLANNING AND ALL DISCUSS SOLUTIONS AT THE ELEMENTARY, MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOLS. 2. The proposed plan will send too many children to LMHS. Under the plan, roughly 65% of the high school students in the district will likely attend LMHS, a pattern similar to what we experienced prior to the 2009 redistricting. If the district-wide enrollment projections are correct, then LMHS enrollments could be as high as 2100 students, while Harriton would have roughly 1100 students, well below its capacity of 1400.
THERE IS NO DATA ANYWHERE THAT SUPPORTS THIS. THE ‘WORST CASE’ SCENARI O BASED ON THE DATA ASSUMING 75% OF STUDENTS ENROLL AT LMHS AND 25% ENROLL AT HHS PUTS LMHS AT 1658 STUDENTS AND HARRITON AT 1561 STUDENTS. Clearly this is untenable logistically and educationally, not to mention that it circumvents the stated community priority for two equal- sized high schools. If the district-wide enrollment projections are incorrect and growth is less than anticipated, then Harriton risks losing programming when its enrollments slip below 1000 students, all the while LMHS enrollments could still be well over capacity. UNDER EXACTLY NO MODELS DOES HARRITON EVER DROP BELOW 1000 STUDENTS. IT’S LOWEST ENROLLMENT MODEL BASED ON PRE 2006 PATTERNS HAS IT AT 1561 STUDENTS VS 1658 AT LMHS. 3. A rushed vote, and rushed action, are unnecessary and unwise. Harriton is not expected to exceed capacity until 2018-19, six years from now, yet the Board proposes implementing expanded choice in 2014-15. Under the plan, enrollments at LMHS could reach 1700-1800 students within two years of implementation, however the administration has yet to develop thoughtful educational or logistical (e.g., overcrowded libraries, cafeteria, and counseling services; traffic; security, etc.) plans to accommodate this number of students and ensure no degradation in the quality of education at LMHS. Rather than rush, the Board should see if the projections bear out over the next few years and use the time to plan carefully before taking such a drastic—and potentially unnecessary-- course of action. Even if the Board wants to phase in a redistricting plan slowly, via choice, such a plan could be successfully implemented in 2016-17 or 201718. NOTHING HAS BEEN ‘RUSHED’ HERE – THESE NUMBERS HAVE BEEN PUBLICLY AVAILABLE, PRESENTED AND ROBUSTLY COVERED BY THE LOCAL MEDIA FOR TEN MONTHS. THESE PLANS HAVE BEEN QUESTIONED BY THE PUBLIC BOTH AT BOARD MEETINGS AND AT CIVIC/COMMUNITY MEETINGS. THE DATA IS FOR ENROLLED STUDENTS, AND IS VALID. FURTHER, WE HAVE HEAVILY CRITICIZED LMSD FOR FAILING TO BE PROACTIVE. NOW THAT THEYA RE, WE ARE CRITIIZING THEM FOR NOT WAITING UNTIL ENROLLMENT IS BEYOND CAPACITY. WHY? 4. The Board seems driven by a desired outcome and not a desire to responsibly solve a potential problem. The Board has failed to investigate alternatives-- e.g., adding classroom space at Harriton-- under the excuse that use of the DAO is “fiscally responsible.” This may prove true, but the Board certainly can’t know that answer if it hasn’t reviewed complete cost estimates for both alternatives and evaluated those cost estimates in the context of the potential educational impacts under the alternatives. Prior to Friday, April 9, the Board did not know (and apparently had not asked to receive) cost estimates for adding classroom space at Harriton or cost estimates to build a secure
passage between the DAO and main buildings—surely a requirement in our post-Sandy Hook/Newtown world. REALLY? BUILDING A HALLWAY WILL BE AS OR MORE EXPENSIVE THAN BUILDING CLASSROOMS? ESPECIALLY ON A PROPERTY THAT WILL REQUIRE ZONING VARIANCES – A TIME CONSUMING AND EXPENSIVE PROCESS – TO COMPLETE? WHILE CLASSROOMS REAMAIN VACANT? THIS FROM A WOMAN WHO WAS ON THE BOARD OVERSESING MASSIVE CONSTRUCTION PROCESSES? AND SHE THINKS BUILDING A HALLWAY WOULD BE THAT EXPENSIVE? The only estimates the Board and public have received are those related to renovating the DAO classrooms. If you have concerns about the plan, the time to act is NOW. Please attend the Board meeting on Monday, April 15. You can also email the Board directly (emails are below), but if you do send an email, please also plan to attend the meeting. It is easier for the Board to minimize letters since the public does not see them. WELL, MS GUTHRIE WOULD KNOW ABOUT IGNORING AND MINIMIZING PUBLIC COMMENT. SHE WAS VERY GOOD AT DOING THIS WHEN SHE WAS ON THE BOARD. Please tell the Board to: 1) slow down, 2) establish a real process with a public timeline, 3) responsibly investigate and publicly discuss the alternatives, and 4) if expanded choice is ultimately necessary (and we won’t know this for several years), adopt a plan that does not allow Harriton’s enrollment to fall below its capacity, as the current plan does, and implement that plan only when necessary. Susan Contact information for the individual Board members: Melissa Gilbert, President firstname.lastname@example.org Marissa Golden email@example.com Subha Robinson firstname.lastname@example.org Robin Vann Lynch email@example.com Virginia Pollard firstname.lastname@example.org Diane DiBonaventuro email@example.com Gary Friedlander firstname.lastname@example.org Jerry Novick email@example.com Lyn Kugel firstname.lastname@example.org Also, send comments to: email@example.com
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