Cloquet School Board tables notion of restructuring K-5
Two years ago, a committee of teachers, parents and administrators discussed the feasibility, practicality and financial issues associated with restructuring Washington and Churchill elementary schools in Cloquet. The committee decided against an...
Two years ago, a committee of teachers, parents and administrators discussed the feasibility, practicality and financial issues associated with restructuring Washington and Churchill elementary schools in Cloquet. The committee decided against any restructuring among the two schools, and after that decision was made, those involved assumed the issue was dead.
They were wrong.
On Monday the issue was again brought to the board as a resolution, which stated a study should be done by Cloquet Superintendent of Schools Ken Scarbrough to determine if they should be restructured from two kindergarten through fifth-grade schools to one kindergarten through second-grade school and one third through fifth-grade school. According to the resolution, the study will focus on how the restructuring would potentially impact students, district personnel, school programming and district curriculum. The study would also focus on how the restructuring would eliminate competition between schools, student transitions to Cloquet Middle School and the economic impact.
Board member Sandy Crowley is spearheading the proposed study.
"We'd create a committee that would be from many different sources and expertise, getting people from both schools and doing a comprehensive study," said Crowley.
This time, the school board ended up tabling the resolution until the Jan. 11, 2007, school board meeting, but not before much discussion took place between board members, principals, Scarbrough and audience member Dan Lundquist.
Lundquist's wife, Kelly, was on the last committee to research the restructuring of Churchill and Washington elementary schools in 2003-2004. Lundquist feels as though the efforts by the committee two years ago would be undercut if a resolution to redo a study were to pass.
"The committee from two years ago did exactly what Sandy described," said Lundquist during Monday's meeting. "The purpose of it was exactly what you're talking about again. It never made it because the committee determined there was absolutely no reason to do it. Why would we need to readdress things that were addressed two years ago?"
A major issue regarding restructuring the elementary schools is the district's financial struggles. In the long run, restructuring schools may save money, but there's no guarantee.
Fluctuating class sizes at both schools year-by-year was another reason for those in favor of restructuring Churchill and Washington. First, it would make issues such as large class sizes in one grade at one school and small class sizes at another an easier issue to contend with.
"Two years ago too many kids in the fifth grade was a problem at Churchill," said board member Jim Crowley. "If we had all the fifth-graders at one school, that would eliminate that problem and make it an easy transition to say we're going to have one more classroom of fifth-graders. This year we had a problem with second grade, and we solved it by hiring two half-time teachers. That worked out, but it takes time. Keeping all the grades in one school would make it a smoother transition for everyone."
According to Sandy Crowley, much of doing a new study boils down to a more complete restudy from the last time.
"I talked to quite a few who were on the committee, and they felt [the idea of restructuring] was not given a fair shot," said Crowley. "They feel the people who were against it were so against it they would not listen to the other side. Those people who are truly interested in the education of all of Cloquet's children, not just their own kids, realize there is great benefit to having that kind of alignment - things like having equal class sizes and having all the teachers in the building. The issue of hiring a second grade teacher this year would've been a non-issue. There will be the ease of placing a new student. Curriculum work will be easier. Things like that are key."
Lundquist quickly mentioned again these were all things that were thoroughly studied by the last committee.
"On the flip side of that, one teacher was telling me how nice it was to have fourth-grade mentors for their first-graders," said Lundquist. "There are several more issues associated with this. But again, all of these issues were discussed two years ago. To readdress this again, from my perspective as a member of the community, is kind of appalling -- especially with the huge number of current issues the school district has."
The issue of restructuring Churchill and Washington elementary schools will again be discussed during the Jan. 11 school board meeting.