During the public comments portion of the Clintonville School Board meeting, Monday, April 28, six community members addressed the board about their concerns regarding Dellwood Early Learning Center.
The concerns expressed were about a proposal they had heard that the district was considering moving the 4K students from Dellwood to the Rexford/Longfellow Elementary School. The alternative school program would then be moved to the Dellwood building. The loss of the Head Start program led to this consideration.
Jana Burg, special education and early childhood teacher at Dellwood, told the board there are approximately 103 students at Dellwood, and only eight of them are there for head start.
“The difference in the number of children there without head start is not significant,” Burg said. “I don’t know what the plans would be if we didn’t have our 4K and special education early childhood there, but we’ve worked nine years to develop the most developmentally appropriate setting that we could, [and] the safest. It’s been a collaboration to have that playground fenced in. We have an indoor and outdoor play area.”
The outdoor play area was a concern addressed my multiple community members. The outside playground at Dellwood is enclosed with fencing. The outside playground at Rexford/Longfellow Elementary School is not enclosed by fencing.
Another concern brought up involved mixing the 4K students with elementary school students.
During the board meeting, Clintonville Superintendant, Tom O’ Toole, shared with the board a list of pros and cons the administration came up with regarding the idea.
“The thing we never want to discount even when I’m reading what pros and cons we came up with, it is a great program at Dellwood,” O’ Toole said. “We’re never going to try to say that’s not happening. We’re not going to say that it’s not a wonderful social atmosphere and that good things aren’t happening there because that’s not true at all.”
Before reading the pros and cons, O’ Toole said that no decision had been made, that the list was based on “what ifs.”
• One less transition for students.
• The opportunity for kindergarten teachers to observe 4K students and 4K students and teachers to observe 5K students and teachers.
• There is space available at Rexford/Longfellow Elementary School.
• Less bussing for 4K students.
• Less bussing costs for the district.
• Possible less food service costs.
• Collaboration between teachers.
• Less custodial work.
• Less snowplowing.
• Alternative school programming wouldn’t be at Rexford/Longfellow and away from elementary school children.
• Increased opportunity for staff development.
• Opportunity for 4K students to access and to learn about the public library.
• 4K students would have access to more technology resources.
• Proximity to daycare centers.
• Walking field trips.
• Programming would not change.
• Social opportunities.
• Rexford/Longfellow would be a larger environment for four year olds.
• Potential parking lot congestion.
• Space and time needed for 4K breakfast and lunch.
• Staff uses the pool for students.
• Possible loss of playground equipment.
• No fenced in playground area.
After sharing the list of pros and cons the administration developed, O’ Toole said it’s always been a consideration to consolidate Dellwood. He also said this wasn’t being discussed for financial reasons.
“I wouldn’t say the recommendation would be to do this for financial reasons,” O’ Toole said. “It may have some financial impact, but it’s not going to be enough to balance the budget. It’s not going to be that significant.”
Board member Jim Schultz asked what the alternative school program students needed.
Lance Bagstad, Clintonville High School principal, said there aren’t many students in the program this year. In past years, he said there have been 15-18 students in the program.
Schultz then asked if it would be beneficial to move the alternative school program students to the high school instead of Dellwood.
“I think there’s all kinds of reasons why we looked at that as an alternative setting. Some of it quite honestly has been behavioral related. Some has been attendance related,” Bagstad said. “Could it work in the high school? Maybe. Is it the best place? I don’t think so.”
Schultz then asked if it would be beneficial to move the fifth grade students back to Rexford/Longfellow and move the alternative school program into a couple of classrooms in the middle school.
“I’m not sure putting that group in the middle school would be a better idea,” Bagstad said.
After the discussion, the board had the opportunity to agree on a plan and vote on it.
“I hadn’t really anticipated some of the ripple effects that have been discussed. I guess I would speak for myself, and say I’m not ready to make that decision,” said Dirk Weber, board president.
O’ Toole responded, “I would say if you are going to do it this year, do it tonight.”
“I certainly don’t want to make a decision on that this year,” said board member Pat Schley.
Schultz asked what the urgency was to make a quick decision.
Other than having enough time to plan for next year, there was no rush, O’ Toole said.
The consensus of the board was to do nothing at this time.