Friday, December 9, 2016

Editorial: Support the split of Cascadia to Decatur

The final decision over whether to split Cascadia between the new Cascadia Elementary School and the Decatur Building is going to be voted on during the January 4th Board Meeting about the student assignment plan.

There are currently several proposed amendments including:
  • One to keep the community in one building. Ammendment 3
  • One to make Decatur on an option site when its opened for HCC students. This would be similar to how Fairmount Park operates. Ammendment 4
My position is that the split is the best option on the table at this point and delaying would not serve the interests of the program.

I've sent out the following letter to board directors:

"I thought that I'd write one combined email to express my opinions about the split before the final vote. I don't really want to to go through a split but I'm motivated by the belief that the numbers really don't workout. Looking at the demographics there was a slight dip this year in the lower grades. but I believe that the general growth in the student population will continue to increase the HCC cohort size if nothing else. Anecdotally, I've heard that some families deferred joining the program so there may be a bit of pent up demand that explains last year's choices.

Even at the current size of 750, the ability to fit on the Cascadia campus is marginal. It definitely sacrifices common spaces, especially the playground which would likely be consumed by the portables themselves. And its also impossible to get the classroom student / teacher ratios into alignment with the state goals at those numbers. This more than anything else directly affects the quality of instruction for all the kids. I consider the 2e population to be particularly vulnerable to larger class sizes.

The next point is whether it makes sense to defer another year or not as Rick has floated. Based on what happens during open enrollment we might always completely exceed the site's capacity no matter what. But assuming that doesn't occur overall, I think this also is not in the best interest of our program. There's a huge risk of the Decatur site being taken before next year and having no obvious overflow sites available at that point. We've also now gone through most of the deliberation process. If we defer, we'll merely repeat this process again and I don't see any improvements in the roll out from that timeline. The district will still hire a principal about 6 months ahead of time and all the work will occur in the late winter / spring.

Finally, I also think its less risky to open as geosplit vs. an option. From the time the vote is taken to the end of open enrollment is about 6 weeks. That's a really short time frame to ask families to commit to an option and there will be very few details they can base a decision on. Its possible that the numbers would just workout that way anyway, but there is a risk of not moving enough people over to form a viable cohort. I believe, once everyone knows their site, people will rally around making the roll out go as well as possible. Also after Decatur is established I think that risk diminishes and that decision could be revisited. As has been pointed out elsewhere, assuming the split occurs, Cascadia E.S. will actually have some open seats that a family could access through open-enrollment even if in the Decatur catchment zone. That would provide a small amount of flexibility around the fringes.

In sum, I look at this as medium-short term least worst alternative. I'm hoping in the context of BEX V we can find a more palatable solution. Thanks again for all your hard work,"

Signed Letter from what appears to be most if not all of the Cascadia Staff:

Staff Letter of Support

I urge everyone who is concerned to contact the board prior to the vote. Your voice needs to be heard.


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