SOUTH BEND — Teachers and staff in South Bend schools want to know more about how recent ideas for consolidation will affect specialty education programs and school staffing.
In a series of community meetings Tuesday night at the district’s Dickinson and Edison schools, faculty and community members asked how programs such as dual language and high school magnets would change within several scenarios posed by a facility planning team. Others asked for more clarity on what a series of K-8 academies could look like across the district.
“So you’re completely doing away with high school magnets?” some asked, while others posed the question, “Is there really demand for K-8 buildings, because I wouldn’t want my first grader on a bus with an eighth grader?”
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“I get trying to go back to the feeder patterns,” said Maria Blake, a mom whose children have attended Marshall Traditional, a school with an elementary magnet program. “But you’re taking my choice away. That’s how I feel. Like my choices are being snatched.”
Planners say they’ve not made any decisions on programs across grade levels and that some programs could stay in their schools or move to another location rather than going away entirely.
Teachers working in schools slated for change — such as an elementary school consolidated into a K-8 academy — would likely have the opportunity to travel with those classes, Scott Leopold, a consultant working with the school district said Tuesday.
“Staffing reductions, that’s something that would happen over time through attrition,” Leopold said. “It’s very likely that there wouldn’t be a reduction in force, or RIF, as a part of this.”
The discussion comes as consultants for the South Bend district revealed ideas for change this week that could help the school corporation, struggling for years with declining enrollment, downsize to meet its current facility needs.
Scenarios first presented to the South Bend school board Monday include closing one or multiple high schools, realigning elementary and middle school feeder patterns and duplicating some popular specialty magnet programs in other areas across the district.
Consultants have stressed that no ideas raised this week are final and that they want to take time this month to hear the community’s input on what their preferences are for the future of South Bend’s shifting education landscape.
Greta Fisher will have three students at three different South Bend public high schools next school year. Her children, one of whom will be a senior at Riley and two of whom will be freshmen at Clay and Adams, chose where to go based on which school’s magnet program aligned with their interests.
She worries how a proposal to close Clay, for instance, would upend her eighth grader’s choice to learn in its fine arts program.
“It’s very difficult to say, ‘Here’s how I feel about it,’ when what I’m committed to is the programs, not the buildings,” she said. “To not have (the programs) a part of this whole conversation is a real challenge.”
How to share your ideas
The district has scheduled multiple opportunities for public input between giving school board presentation;elm:context_link;itc:0″ class=”link “>an initial school board presentation in early February and making their final recommendations in late March.
Feb. 6: Community survey goes live seeking input on facility planners’ proposed scenarios. The survey can be accessed through the South Bend district’s website.
Feb. 8: Planners will have two community meetings at both Jackson and Clay International Academy. The first of each set of meetings will begin at 5:30 p.m. The second will begin at 7 p.m. Planners say these meetings will be identical.
Feb. 13-17: Planners will schedule small group, virtual community meetings during this window. Interested community members can register through the online survey launched Monday.
March 6-10: The district’s facility planning task force will meet during this week. An exact date and time are forthcoming.
March 20: Planners will give their final recommendations to the school board in its regularly scheduled meeting at 5:30 p.m. at Clay High School.
April 17: A final vote is expected at the district’s mid-April school board meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the administration building.
Tribune reporter Jordan Smith contributed to this story.
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: What do South Bend consolidation ideas mean for teachers, programs?
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