Monday, October 30, 2017

Rationale for move to 5-6 and 7-8 Buildings


October 10, 2016

Building Project Update - LPCSC to Move to a Pre-K-4th,
5th/6th Intermediate School, and 7th/8th Intermediate School

Our journey to select and secure the best location for a new middle school resulted in time for us to think critically about a number of factors. The Feasibility Study dialogue, recent announcements by the Indiana Department of Education regarding mandatory preschool, and staff interview data gathered by our architects, led to the LPCSC administration to pursue building a new 5th/6th grade intermediate school on the vacant ground near Kesling middle school. Kesling Middle School will be remodeled to become our corporation 7th/8th intermediate school. Both the 5th/6th intermediate school and the 7th/8th intermediate school will be designed to serve 1,000 students. This decision creates much needed space at all elementary schools which will be for pre Kindergarten through grade 4. Thus the fifth graders move out to the new 5/6 intermediate campus.

In good faith, administration and consultants pursued a location and for a new Boston that would allow us to build an equitable facility, and depending upon the location, avoid a total redistricting of the Boston and Kesling attendance boundaries. Failure to address these issues would have resulted in division, discontent, and disappointment for both staff and the community. Not having found a location that would meet our needs, we were faced with an administrative decision which would call for us to revisit the overall needs of the corporation as identified in our feasibility study. In considering our alternatives we would also be called to consider how to best make use of resources at hand to maximize the overall impact on student programs both now and in the future.

This administrative decision was informed based on community and staff input through the feasibility study process. The overarching impact of the decision considered the entire corporation needs and outlined a vision for the future which is the charge of administration and the board.

Input and participation of stakeholders in the design and implementation of our new programming is key to assuring program success and ownership of all in the change.

Financially, building a new 5th/6th intermediate school was less costly than a new middle school and provided funding to be used to remodel the current Kesling Middle School and transform it into our 7th/8th intermediate school. The new intermediate school will be constructed on the grounds where the current administrative offices are located. This centrally-located, convenient site will allow us to make better use of the property we currently own.

This move will improve K-12 programming by allowing our students and staff to work together in proximity and allow students to work together with their graduating class for four years before entering high school. This will strengthen all programs by providing consistency and articulation with upper-grade-level curriculum and programming.

How and why was this determination made?

The concept of having one large 6th, 7th, and 8th grade middle school was discussed during the Feasibility Study but ruled out by the committee. A second consideration was to build a 6th-grade-only building and have 7th/8th grades in another location. This idea was discarded because a one-year transition and isolation of the sixth grade was not supported.

Throughout the discussion of locating the building site for the new middle school, there was high interest in keeping the two middle schools close to the center of our district, without redistricting. This narrowed the location possibilities and caused us to reevaluate. We knew that building one new middle school would, naturally, result in the new school becoming more “popular”. Depending upon the location of the new middle school, it was likely that redistricting would be necessary and, as much as we wanted both middle schools to be equal in programming and facilities, the fact was that there would be a natural affinity for the new Boston Middle School to be favored. Disappointment and division would exist not only between parents and students but among staff as well.

The more we looked at locations and could not secure an acceptable location, the more it became clear that an educated decision had to be made one which administration was charged to make considering the feasibility study data and what would make the most impact on district needs. The decision was made to separate grades 5th/6th and 7th/8th and establish an intermediate campus for our students while creating valuable space at each elementary school.

Upon completion of our improvements, all of our students will be able to experience attending the new 5/6 building and the improved 7th/8th building. Outside of moral suffering because the Boston students and staff anticipated a new school to be built, the benefits of moving to intermediate schools are numerous. One of the goals promoted by the Feasibility Study was to ensure that all students receive an equal educational experience that prepares them for college and/or future careers. Having all students, beginning with grade 5, attend the same schools works in harmony with our curricular philosophy. In addition to preparing students for the future, our Feasibility Study was initiated to assure that our schools are capable of delivering student programs ten years from now. When we implement the Pre-K-4th, 5th/6th, and 7th/8th configuration, the only schools that would ever need re-districting would be our Pre-K – 4th schools.

Recent discussion at the state level is laying the foundation for mandated preschool. This movement was not in existence when we conducted the Feasibility Study. When we revisited the Feasibility Study, we wanted to create spaces and impact as many buildings and students as possible. Considering our decision to move to 5th/6th and 7th/8th schools, every elementary school in the corporation will gain space by moving the 5th grade out of the building, providing much needed space without the need for additional construction. The end result will be an elementary program configuration of pre- kindergarten to grade 4 (Pre-K-4).

Also appealing to us is the fact that our corporation efforts to guarantee a challenging curriculum, extracurricular programming, and consistency will be much easier to maintain. From fifth grade forward, students will be in the same building with their graduation class. In addition to students being together, staff will be in the same building for meetings regarding curriculum, testing, and program articulation.

Impact on project timeline and costs

Logistically, all of the preparation and staff interviews conducted, to date, will be beneficial in making the transition. Schmidt Associates have been conducting interviews with staff and stakeholders for each school in our system. Much of what has been recorded and shared reflects the fact that each of our elementary schools need more space. Further, our middle schools have been unequal in a number of facility and programming areas. Careful notes reflect the current strengths of each middle school and we intend to utilize this information to maximize an effective remodel of Kesling Middle school. More students will benefit from our new configuration and our efforts to guarantee curriculum and extracurricular experiences for our students will be greatly improved.

Next Steps

The natural tendency for all of us, including staff, students, and parents, is to begin wondering how this change will affect us personally.

Questions will surface such as: In which school will I teach? How will the administrators be selected? What about athletics? How will my younger elementary school children walk to school without their older sibling? Will we have enough room for all of the students in band and orchestra? These are all good questions and there will be many more that will need to be addressed as we prepare for opening day of the 2019/2020 school year, when we kick off a new era for the La Porte Community School Corporation.

To answer these questions, we are establishing strategic planning teams to develop the programming and educational model that will be designed for Pre- K/4th, 5th/6th, and 7th/8th schools. This configuration is not a new concept in education nor within the Duneland conference, it will be our interest to visit other schools that have implemented this configuration but ultimately we want to shape our programs to meet our needs in La Porte.

Additionally, administration is meeting with each school staff in order to field their questions and concerns and assure staff that the next phases of the process will involve connecting grade levels with each other and our architects in order to be prepared for the opening of the 2019/2020 school year.

Strategic planning teams will convene in November, and over the next year and a half, to produce programming recommendations for the following areas:

1. Pre-K-4 Programming Model

2. 5/6 Programming Model

3. 7/8 Programming Model

4. Drug Free Task Force

5. K-12 High Ability Program

6. K-12 Athletic Program

7. College and Career Readiness

The program details that are identified will influence the final outcome of the building projects and the transition to the Pre-K- 4th, 5th/6th, and 7th/8th configurations.

You are encouraged to get involved in the work that will be done by these teams. Interested persons should contact Kelley Glass at the Educational Services Center.

Lastly, please visit our building project blog at the following link in order to stay up to date on our building construction progress: