Parents and others who oppose the suggested closing of five Wichita schools plan to protest outside tonight’s school board meeting.
“Our goal is to come together as a community,” said Charity Chapman, whose children attend Emerson Open Magnet Elementary.
“We have to send a message … letting them know that we will fight against closing our schools and overcrowding kids,” she said. “Our kids are people with individual needs, not a product to be turned out of a factory at the lowest possible cost.”
Superintendent John Allison’s boundary plan, which board members will discuss today, suggests shutting four Wichita elementary schools – Bryant, Emerson, Lincoln and Mueller – as a cost-cutting measure.
The plan also would close Northeast Magnet High School, 1847 N. Chautauqua, and relocate the program to a new school being built at 53rd North and Rock Road.
Opponents of the plan say board members have not adequately weighed the consequences of closing schools or considered which schools would make the most sense to close.
Allison says a reduction in state per-pupil funding means the district must close schools in order to open new schools being built as part of a $370 million bond issue. He said district leaders, bond managers and consultants selected the schools based on factors such as building condition, enrollment, program and proximity to other schools.
Board members are expected to vote on new attendance boundaries Feb. 27. An item on tonight’s agenda recommends that the board schedule a public hearing about school closings a week later, March 5, to comply with state law. The law requires districts to hold a hearing “prior to adopting a resolution closing any school building.”
Today’s protest of school closings is planned for the sidewalks outside North High School, 1437 Rochester, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. The board meets at 6 p.m. in the North High lecture hall.
Also at tonight’s meeting, board members will consider:
• A proposed calendar for the 2012-13 school year. According to the calendar, most children would start classes on Aug. 15. Winter break would be Dec. 21 through Jan. 2. Spring break would be March 14-22, 2013.
• A $1.2 million addition to Colvin Elementary School, 2820 S. Roosevelt, as part of the 2008 bond issue.
• A pilot program aimed at improving the health of employees with diabetes. Eligible employees identified as diabetic or pre-diabetic will receive free diabetes medications and supplies and “personalized health coaching” through Kroger pharmacies as part of the voluntary program. The agenda item calls for the district to pay Kroger Pharmacy up to $150,000 through June 30.
• An agreement with GraceMed Health Clinic to operate a satellite clinic at Dodge Literacy Magnet Elementary, 4801 W. Second St. Board members approved the clinic in concept last month.
• A plan to buy a residential property at 1905 S. Laura, near Gardiner Elementary, to allow space for expanding the school. The district would pay $124,300, including closing costs and state-mandated relocation costs.