Muscatine Community School District Superintendent Dr. Jerry Riibe hosted a public meeting on the evening of Thursday, February 25 to discuss the results of the study into closing Washington School. Several dozen Muscatine parents were in attendance to express their concerns and sadness over the closing of the school.
Dr. Riibe reported that with the conclusion of the feasibility study, which examined the logistics of how and where the students would fit into each school, a recommendation will be made to the board to close Washington school. The board will meet on March 14 to vote on whether or not to close the school.
If the board votes to approve the closing of the school, no faculty or staff will lose their jobs. This is made possible through a combination of reassigning the current faculty, and using current staff to fill vacancies created by retiring faculty and staff at the end of the school year. However, if the school board votes to keep the school open, then layoffs are probable.
To aide parents and families through the possible transition process, a map of the proposed new school boundaries can be found at the Washington School tab on the school districts website, or by visiting http://www.muscatine.k12.ia.us/washington/ . The anticipated new boundary lines will have the south populations of the Washington district assigned to Franklin. The exception to this area would be Krammerer Court. Students in this area would receive transportation to McKinley.
If the closure is approved, the district will put in place several steps to help make the transition as smooth as possible for all families involved. Days will be scheduled for current Washington students to visit their potential new schools. These visits will allow students to meet teachers, staff, and future classmates.
In addition to the during school hours visit, evening visits and tours will be scheduled as well. The evening visits will provide an opportunity for parents and guardians to familiarize themselves with the new school buildings, and to meet the new faculty and staff as well.
Dr. Riibe explained that by not opening the school, an estimated $200 thousand would be saved. That amount comes from the costs of running and maintaining the school on a daily basis. In addition, approximately $300 thousand will be saved by the reassignment of current staff.
According to Dr. Riibe, the study anticipates several potential outcomes of combining the schools. In addition to maximizing the efficiency of the buildings and facilities, a reduction in class sizes will take place. While this may seem counter intuitive, the study shows that adding the students to the current ones attending each school, and then providing a third class at grade levels needing it will reduce the numbers of students in each classroom.
To help manage the class sizes, the Jefferson, McKinley and Franklin will not be accepting open enrollment applications for students who are not currently involved in the OE program. The district will also review the student numbers at the four remaining elementary buildings. If necessary, the district will identify classrooms to remain open or closed in each building before processing any new applications.
In regard to inter-district transfers, Jefferson, McKinley and Franklin will not be accepting transfer students until after all current Washington students have been assigned. In addition, current Washington students will have priority if requesting a transfer to another building outside of the newly re-districted buildings.
Along with the new boundary lines and the reassignment of staff, there is the possible reassignment of various special needs curriculum and classes throughout the district. Siblings of special education students will have priority in transferring to another building due to movement of the special education programs. The criteria for inter-district transfers will follow the similar processes as that of the open enrollment program, with each class being evaluated prior to decisions regarding transfers.
After the vote from the school board, if approved, letters will be sent to parents, notifying them of which building they will be re-districted to. Each letter will include information on the student visits and tours of the new buildings, the spring family visits to the new buildings, information on Family fun nights for Jefferson, Franklin and McKinley transfers, and details on how to request a transfer to another building, if needed.
“I know the emotions that go along with this process. I wish it wasn’t what needed to happen. We are looking at the long term health of the district. We are optimistic for the future of the district as a whole,” says Dr. Riibe. He goes on to say, “We understand change is hard, but Muscatine is too good of a community to keep in a negative situation.”