What: Davis Board of Education workshop on proposed reconfiguration of grades
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Community Chambers, Davis City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.
Watch it: Live on cable Channel 17 and as streaming video at www.djusd.tv
The Davis school board will hear a staff report and hold a workshop discussion on the concept of moving ninth-grade students from Davis junior high schools to high school campuses when trustees meet Thursday night.
According to the agenda summary, “This discussion is not intended to decide if (the district) will move forward with reconfiguration, it is intended as a preliminary analysis. … No final recommendations or decisions for future reconfiguration are proposed in this staff report.”
Agenda backup documents posted Monday evening do, however, include some estimates of the facilities needed at Davis High if ninth-graders come to the campus on 14th Street.
According to an estimate of preliminary costs, Davis High would need “a minimum of 20 new classrooms” to accommodate the ninth-graders, plus the renovation of four science labs. The price tag for a new two-story modular classroom building containing 20 to 24 classrooms is an estimated $11.7 million to $14.1 million and for the lab renovation, $1.9 million. The total project would run an estimated $16 million.
The report also estimates that moving Da Vinci Charter Academy’s ninth-graders to the Valley Oak campus that houses the Da Vinci program for 10th- through 12th-graders would cost $440,000 for relocation and installation of four portable classrooms. Moving Da Vinci’s students in grades 7-9 would cost an estimated $1.3 million for relocation and installation of 12 portables. (Da Vinci’s seventh- through ninth-graders are currently at the Emerson Junior High campus in West Davis.)
In recent years, the school district has had a limited amount of money in its facilities budget. When the multipurpose room at Davis High was closed in 2010, after toxic mold was found in areas under the building’s leaky roof, the school board briefly considered the possibility of applying for state hardship funds to do extensive repairs to the building. But the board ultimately decided it would be better to tear down the aging structure; demolition is scheduled to begin in June.
The Davis school district is one of a handful in the state that operates a high school program configured for grades 10-12. The vast majority of California school districts operate 9-12 high schools.
On Jan. 9, school board trustees Gina Daleiden, Nancy Peterson and Tim Taylor asked Superintendent Winfred Roberson and district staff to prepare an initial assessment of what moving the ninth-graders to the high school campuses would entail. Thursday’s report is the result of that request.
Last Sunday, in an opinion piece published in The Enterprise, Daleiden and Taylor called for creation of a school board-appointed community advisory committee that “could take the information presented by district staff (on Thursday) and others to build and evaluate models of program change and fiscal investment.”
Daleiden and Taylor added, “Right now, we simply lack sufficient information to make a wise judgement regarding potential change in school configuration in our district, including whether no change or smaller changes are preferable. There can be no true comparison without a detailed definition of options.”
In January, school board president Sheila Allen and trustee Susan Lovenburg said they did not want to pursue the idea of moving ninth-graders to the high school without also conducting a broader look at the district’s overall academic program. Allen has indicated on several occasions that she does not support a 9-12 high school configuration for Davis, and Lovenburg has said she would like to see the district do long-term planning for the most effective and efficient way to run the district’s academic program.
Allen offered this assessment of what she hopes Thursday’s workshop session will accomplish: “The workshop will be a first review and discussion of the information that staff were able to collect over the past month after a majority of the board gave direction to the superintendent to investigate moving ninth-graders to the high school. This request came during the discussion of chronic low enrollment of three of our five world languages, as a means to bolster enrollment in these courses.
“Staff have solicited input internally from teachers and administrators, but have not had the opportunity to engage in a community discussion. As a public school district, this will be a key part of any planning process moving forward,” she continued.
Key areas that must be discussed include facilities, facility and program funding, programmatic losses and gains, and school climate issues, Allen said.
“Facility capacity includes specialty classrooms such as science labs and music programs that are already at capacity, and the cost of adding these classrooms to maintain program,” she said. “Actual savings achieved by closing (some) schools need to be looked at compared to program changes and the cost of making these changes. It would be helpful to the community if the board could articulate reasons to make this change and the timeline for such changes.
“In the seven years that I have served on the school board, a K-12 strategic plan has never been developed,” Allen concluded. “Time and time again, the community has stepped forward to show their support of our K-12 district. Rather than a narrow look at moving ninth-graders, a positive outcome of this initial process could be to embark on an effort looking at our entire district and how we can improve our education system, including technology upgrades and strategic ways to decrease class sizes as state funds return.
“As trustees serving students from preschool through high school, we should be striving to provide an excellent education for all.”
Thursday’s meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Community Chambers at Davis City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd. The meeting will be carried live on Davis cable Channel 17, and as streaming video at www.djusd.tv.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8055.