Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How Should Our City Schools Be Configured?

Tonight (Tues., May 26), the Charlottesville City School system is hosting a Community Engagement Workshop to get feedback from the public on what changes, if any, should be made to the way our City schools are configured. (For more info.: http://www.ccs.k12.va.us/community/CommunityEngagementPage.html) The workshop will be held at Charlottesville High School from 6-9pm. Here are the options under consideration:

Option 1: Leave City school division as is: 6 elementary schools (K-4), 1 upper elementary (5-6), 1 middle school (7-8), 1 high school (9-12)

Option 2: Close 1 elementary school

Option 3: 6 elementary schools (K-5), 2 middle schools (6-8), 1 high school (9-12)

Option 4: 6 elementary schools (K-5), 1 middle school (6-8), 1 high school (9-12)

Option 5: Other reconfiguration possibilities?

I commend the School Board and the School Administration for initiating this important public dialogue. Speaking as the parent of two City schoolchildren, and not necessarily as Mayor, I'll put in my two cents for Option 3. I think it makes a lot of sense to put 5th graders in the elementary schools and have fewer, and more gradual, transitions from there. As it is now, our kids leave their small neighborhood elementary schools and are immediately plunged into a city-wide upper elementary school for two years before going to a city-wide middle school for two years and then on to the city-wide high school. In case you lost track, that means a child attends 4 different schools in 6 years! Why not get rid of the "upper elementary" school concept altogether and instead have two smaller middle schools (6th-8th grades) before students enter the city-wide high school. That makes for an easier transition, and also hopefully allows for more individualized attention at the middle school level, where much of the research tells us that "at-risk" kids start to seriously fall behind.

The main argument that's usually raised against having two middle schools is that we tried that before in Charlottesville, and the school boundaries were drawn in a way that brought more upper-income/white kids to one middle school and more lower-income/African-American kids to the other, leading to a separate and inequal educational environment. Rather than throw in the towel on a more personalized middle school experience and a more gradual 5th-to-9th-grade transition for our schoolchildren, however, why not just do a better and more equitable job of drawing the boundaries so that the two middle schools serve an equally diverse population?

If you have any thoughts you'd like to share on this subject, feel free to attend tonight's workshop or contact the School Board at SchoolBoard@ccs.k12.va.us.

1 comment:

Jen on the Edge said...

I agree with you on all counts about Option 3. I am concerned that Central Office will choose Option 4 so that they meet the technical requirement of having closed one school -- most likely Walker since it would give C.O. some space to ooze into and bloat their numbers even more. Having only one middle school would also mean a severely overcrowded building.

If Central Office does choose Option 3, then this would be a good opportunity to redraw the districts, which are oddly done anyway. My children go to Greenbrier, which includes children who pass by one or two closer elementary schools on their bus ride to school every day.

Instead of the current pie-shaped configuration, it would make more sense to have children go to the schools that are actually closest to them. (I know, a novel concept.) That would help at the elementary school level, but I'm not sure how much impact it would have at the middle school level.

At any rate, it will be interesting to hear what people have ot say at tonight's workshop.