There are pros and cons to moving the ninth-graders to the high school, but at this point in the process, I believe that we are having the wrong discussion. While the decisions at the school board’s last meeting were a step in the right direction, there is still a missing piece.
The board has been strangely mysterious about its reasons for wanting this move. Originally, the idea seemed to come out of thin air. Since then, there have been mentions of academic excellence, and the occasional mention of budgetary problems. However, no clear context has been provided, and no clear study of all the options has been done.
If a structural deficit is the problem driving this proposed move, and if no other solutions are being considered, then no matter how strongly the community may object, no matter how significant the drawbacks, the move will go forward.
At its last meeting, the board decided to step back and evaluate all options. However, the consultant being hired is academic, and there is still no mention of a fiscal study. Before we reconfigure an entire school district on a whim, I would like to understand the fiscal alternatives. We need a report describing:
* The amount of the deficit, expressed in a useful context (as a percentage of the total annual staff/ facilities budgets);
* Fiscal projections for the next five years;
* A list of cost reduction measures that have been evaluated and their estimated fiscal impact; and
* Fiscal impact of moving ninth grade to the high school, including cost and schedule for physical plant improvements at DHS.
Until we step back and have a community discussion about all the options for reducing the structural deficit, this move of ninth grade to DHS will inevitably go forward, likely followed shortly afterwards by the closure of Emerson Junior High.
I would like to have the opportunity for a complete discussion and an evaluation of all our options. We are a creative community, and perhaps we can find another way. And if not, at least we will know that we explored the possibilities.