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School closure opinions sought

Decision yet to come on how many buildings to shutter

Aug. 16, 2011

Elmbrook community members will have a chance to share their opinions about potential elementary school closing and redistricting scenarios during a series of outreach sessions next month.

Taking that feedback into account, the School Board is expected in late October or early November to act on a school closure, a possibility that has seen much debate and deliberation since it was proposed in the summer of 2010.

The School Board has been examining several options for a potential school closure, but board members plan to narrow the list to two or three by the time the options are presented to community members in September.

The seven options presented to the School Board during a work session this month are:

close Hillside Elementary on the district's west side.

close Tonawanda, Elmbrook's easternmost school, in the village of Elm Grove.

close Hillside and Tonawanda.

close Burleigh Elementary, a six-section school on Brookfield's north side.

close Swanson Elementary, just south of Bluemound Road on Calhoun Road.

repurpose Burleigh to a three-section school on the first floor and move the district's administrative offices to the second floor.

repurpose Burleigh to a three-section school on the first floor with administrative offices on the second; close Hillside.

The School Board also could discuss the option of reducing the amount of sections at Swanson - the school currently has five classes each of kindergarten through fifth grade - and moving some administrative functions there. A Swanson reduction/Tonawanda closure also could be considered.

The board will discuss the options next week and likely narrow down the alternatives before taking the options to community members for feedback. Any decision would go into effect for the 2012-13 school year.

Decision was deferred

The School Board has been studying the potential closure of a school or schools since an enrollment study team included that option as a way to help address a projected multimillion-dollar budget shortfall over the next five years.

The study team's recommendation also included adding 4-year-old kindergarten, increasing nonresident enrollment and increasing class sizes as ways to save money or increase revenue. The group's preferred option did not include a school closing.

After a series of outreach sessions last fall with parents, teachers and community members, the School Board decided not to decide on a school closing for the 2011-12 school year.

Room to spare

Some members of the study team and district administrators also recently completed a "base case" analysis that shows the district could serve its 10-year projected resident enrollment with 19 sections of each elementary grade level across four schools, compared to the 25 sections it can house now in six schools.

According to the report, a four-school model would use 82.5 percent of capacity in the buildings, leaving room for some nonresident students. With six elementary schools operating in 2010-11, Elmbrook used about 71 percent of its capacity.

Closing an elementary school would save about $1.3 million a year, according to the analysis.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: Elmbrook School Board

discussion of school closure options

WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Central Administration Office, 13780 Hope St., Brookfield

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