Heidi Gillingham dropped by East Valley High School last week to pick out a memento of her alma mater.
A member of East Valley School District board of directors, Gillingham attended Mountain View Middle School back in the day, a campus that was recently closed by the district as part of a consolidation with East Valley Middle School. At an event on Aug. 26 resembling a hybrid of a yard sale and sports apparel clearance, uniforms and other clothing with EVMS and MVMS logos were sold to raise money for team jerseys at the restructured middle school.
With most items going for $1 each, over $900 was generated at the sale.
Meanwhile, district officials are in discussions with several community groups regarding future uses at MVMS. East Valley Superintendent John Glenewinkel said the schedule could include county sports leagues, community college classes and other events “at a neutral cost to the district.”
This spring, the district announced that Mountain View would be closing as part of a “revisioning” process that would eventually mean a transition to a K-8 program with students being housed at current elementary school sites. At the time, Glenewinkel pointed out that MVMS – built for a capacity of over 700 students – only had an enrollment of 330.
District officials say the closure of Mountain View should save around $1.5 million annually.
This month, the district’s seventh-and eighth-graders will start classes at East Valley Middle School. Enrollment is expected to be around 560. Meanwhile, last year’s group of fifth-graders will remain at one of four elementary schools – Trent, Otis Orchards, Trentwood or East Farms – instead of moving on to a middle school.
As part of the transition, Skyview Elementary students and teachers have been reassigned to the Continuous Curriculum School (housed in the same building that once housed Skyview), Trentwood or Otis Orchard elementary schools.
Glenwinkel and representatives of the board say the K-8 change should be completely in place by the start of the 2013-14 school year. As part of the plan, EVMS would be adapted to a middle level learning center and administrative offices.
In April, the district ran a $33.75 million capital facilities bond that was defeated by a margin of 61 to 30 percent. Not long afterward, the board declared a fiscal emergency and announced potential layoffs of up to 25 teachers.
Eventually, state reductions came in lower than anticipated – $800,000 as compared to a projected shortfall of up to $2.8 million. Staffing altered little – only a half-time teaching position was cut while 2.5 jobs in the administrative office were lost. The latest EVSD budget includes $200,000 for new textbooks and educational programming as well as funds for certain maintenance projects like seal coating on parking lots.
“I feel like we’ve done everything we can to improve the educational experience for our students and move the district forward,” Glenewinkel said.
Gillingham, who has two kids attending schools in the district, said Glenewinkel and the board have worked to explain the changes going into the 2011-12 school year. The district held well-attended community meetings in May to discuss the transition.
“I think people understand that you can’t keep a school open that’s built for 700 students and only has 300 there,” Gillingham said. “Most people just wanted to know what was going to happen from there on out.”
Gillingham acknowledged that the start of the academic year will likely include more questions.
“We’re hoping for a smooth transition, but we know there are some things that will probably need some adjusting,” she said. “If people have an issue with something, please let us know.”
Longtime East Valley resident Art Tupper is one citizen who has expressed opposition to the district’s new direction. Now retired, Tupper taught in District 81 for 28 years and began speaking out against the revisioning plans last November.
Tupper says East Valley is the only area school district supporting the K-8 format. He points to local districts like Cheney that are currently constructing middle school buildings and maintains the K-8 configuration reduces the quality of education and can generate negative influences for K-5 students.
“I don’t have anything against the board, I just don’t agree,” Tupper said.
“This was supposed to be about improving high school graduation rates – well, I don’t think it’s going to help that.”
Tupper said the bussing system that will be in place this year works against establishing “neighborhood schools where parents can attend PTA meetings.” Tupper added that he is ready to talk with Glenewinkel and the board about “a system that includes seventh and eighth graders in middle school.”
Despite the opposition in some corners to the district’s latest direction, Board Members Mike Harris and Mitch Jensen are running alone on the ballot in the November election.
Citizen support will be key when EVSD runs a maintenance and operations levy next year, most likely in February. The initiative accounts for 24 percent of the district’s budget and covers costs associated with areas like music, sports, arts and counseling. A simple majority – or any margin above 50 percent – is required for passage.