In regards to a couple of recent “letters to the editor”:
Again, I will go back to a presentation by Lisa De La Rue who suggested that, after doing an extensive literature review, the optimal size for a school is 600-900 students. Currently, Unit 4 is planning for two 1700-hundred-student high schools. According to the FAQ, allegedly this is “what the community wants”. I personally disagree with this general statement, based on the way the original Dejong-Richter questions were asked, and the fact that even Dejong-Richter mentioned that a third high school is worth discussing. It was never discussed.
To this date, Unit 4 has had a narrow focus of looking for 1700-hundred-student high school on a plot of land whose size requirements seem to bounce around a lot, from 35 acres to 80 acres to 47 acres. I have not heard Unit 4 talk about possibly doing a third high school altogether. And for that matter, what about 4 or 5 total high schools? You think I am crazy – the administrative and logistical overhead for that many high schools would make them cost inefficient. A very interesting thought, considering that the primary purpose of a public school system is to teach kids, not cut corners. If the focus is truly to make kids successful at life, we should be asking how does that best happen. And yes, I realize that there are many different theories, opinions and passionate arguments about how best to “do” education. Most likely, there is no one single answer, no silver bullet – our society, our technology and our understanding of the universe around us continues to change every second. Our approach to education and pedagogy must be equally agile. But since it has not been, we are stuck where we are today, arguing and complaining about where to put a so-called “21st century” high school.
Here are some quick thoughts on the “more than 2 high schools” scenario:
- More flexible and dexterous in the long-run; a building can house a set number of students, but can be re-purposed as either a high school or a middle school or even a PreK building in the future.
- Most immediately address physical space needs at the lowest cost – you don’t need to spend mega millions on brand new facilities that house a large population of students.
- Infinitely more options open up where you can put that smaller building. Judah site? Bradley and Neil? Bristol Park? West of I-57? North of I-74? South of Windsor Road?
- Yes, under the current model there would be more administrative staff. But do we really need all those positions at smaller schools? I question why we have so much overhead – is it purely because of all these myriad unfunded mandates from lawyers, the Koch brothers, DC and Redmond?
Lest we forget, this whole dilemma is much more than just a high school. This effects how we plan for the future, how we “do” education, and what we prioritize as a community.