Despite a recent bond vote failure and some heavy criticism from several parents and teachers, the East Valley School District board of directors unanimously voted Tuesday night to move forward with plans to transition grade schools to accommodate sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
That means for the 2013-14 school year, East Valley Middle School will be used to accommodate preschoolers along with other programs.
“I believe in this strongly,” said Mitch Jensen, board member. “We either go big or go home…of course not everybody is going to be happy.”
Fellow board member Heidi Gillingham agreed.
“It seems to be agreed it’s the best academic model,” she said. “And we can do it without the bond. We’re just doing what we said we were going to do.”
The $65 million bond, which failed in February, would have paid for remodeling at several schools and a 1,500-seat performing arts center, wrestling field house and new turf for the football field at the high school.
In past weeks, there has been some disagreement on that plan, however. On March 12, parents and teachers packed the administration building board room for a long meeting. At that time, Superintendent John Glenewinkel said the plan was to have the students currently in the district grade schools remain there through eighth grade, while moving preschool – including the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program along with Homelink – plus some alternative programs to East Valley Middle School. Mountain View Middle School has already been closed.
Fears have been raised that the elementary schools won’t have adequate space to accommodate the extra students. However, Glenewinkel said that Otis Orchards Elementary – which currently is the closest to capacity – has 21 classrooms (not counting portables) and is currently using 16 of those. Only 18 will be needed next year, Glenewinkel said.
“How many bedrooms do you have in your house?” he asked. “Are you using all of them?”
There have been arguments that the plan won’t provide enough opportunities for physical education or music. However, Glenewinkel said the district already exceeds state requirements in those areas and classes could be staggered on different days of the week and during zero-hours or early starts to accommodate those programs.
“If you adopt this plan, the administrative staff will do everything in our power to address the details in that plan,” he said. “At the same time, we’ll address the concerns at each school.”
“We’re providing more opportunities, not less,” said board Chairwoman Kerri Lunstroth.
There have also been concerns that students will miss out on the “middle school experience” before moving on to high school. The superintendent said that studies have shown – and it’s happening now in the schools with the current seventh-graders – that students form closer relationships with the adult staff and their fellow students.
“Go into the schools,” Glenewinkel said. “Go in there and talk to the kids and these teachers.”
“Are we doing what’s best for our kids?” asked Roger Trainor, board member, before the vote.
“I believe we are,” Glenewinkel said.