Gilbert Public Schools: Is there really enough time for a do-over?

Headline in the East Valley Tribune: Gilbert district to vote again in February on school closure. This do-over is just putting lipstick on a pig of a decision.

The Gilbert district will start anew with the process to close Gilbert Junior High School after questions have been raised about whether or not the district followed state statutes the first time. “We’re doing this process right this time,” Burk said. “We anticipate the School Facilities Board giving us permission on Feb. 6 based on the feedback we have from their staff.”

The Gilbert board will hold a public hearing on Feb. 12. Burk expects the district to send out notification at least 10 days prior to the meeting.

“We’ll follow the law, which states parents of all affected students must be notified in writing 10 days prior,” Burk said. “One of the things we’re doing different this time to ensure the statue is complied with is we’re notifying all affected students. There will be more parents notified this time, including the feeder schools. Those parents will get a notice.”

This time, perhaps the Gilbert Public Schools superintendency, those people pulling down six-figure salaries, can answer some of the remaining issues with real facts and figures. You know ,the kind of real numbers us lesser beings use to balance our family checkbooks so we can PAY OUR 30% TAX INCREASE THE PREVIOUS BOARD APPROVED.

Here are a few issues that still need to be addressed:

Capacity of schools and boundaries:

Given that they have had months to prepare answers to questions asked at the meeting in February, and didn’t; and given that they still have not been able to prove this is good for 38,000 students overall…they really need to stop and look at the boundaries.  According to what they say our schools can hold, we are 93-102% full but it’s clear that some schools are over and others are under…so fix that.

We have too many students in our district overall to close a school. And our elementary enrollment numbers are larger than our junior high numbers with 600 acres still to build…there is no way we should be closing a school. We should redo boundaries to better align the schools and use space effectively.

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Student registration for classes during school year 2013-2014 is on hold across the district:

All of the junior high registration is on hold (only two of our 6  junior highs are effectively not affected by this) and once a decision is made, it will take tech services 6 weeks to process the registration cards. We are potentially looking at the end of March before  junior high registration can even take place.

It’s good that they are waiting … keeps it more fair for all of the junior high students to get the classes they want/need.

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Costs associated with the move are being hidden. Contractors are already bidding on improvements to Gilbert Junior High School facilities to bring them up to standards for Gilbert Classical Academy. Isn’t it disgusting that Gilbert Public Schools was unwilling to make those expenditures for Gilbert Junior High School students?

Gilbert Classical Academy principal Jodie Dean is now on record saying the first thing for GCA to do is increase AP offerings, specifically in science. The junior high science classrooms cannot accommodate AP labs. There are no gas jets, no plumbing for gas, no chemical showers, no eye wash stations etc.

The first year cost is not as important as the total cost to put GCA somewhere. And if GCA cannot specify exactly what their needs are, and how they will retain students to make their campus viable, we should not kick anyone out of a school that is already viable. Currently the GCA retention rate from 7th thru graduation is less than 40%. But If they can improve retention then our community would support a bond election to build a proper school.

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The problem of lack of transparency just won’t go away.  After all, this is Gilbert Public Schools, 100 years of tradition unhampered by progress.

There are so many things wrong with this decision that overcoming one or two objections doesn’t clear up why, what’s the rush, who made promises they can’t keep, and it certainly doesn’t overcome the facts of our current enrollment. They have to fix the boundaries and align the schools.

The parent who spoke out on the ‘floating’ costs of this undertaking hit the nail on the head. Have they actually done a cost analysis with bids, proposed needs and plans, down to a traffic survey?

Do they have a projected budget with itemized costs for the board and superintendent to base their decision? Dr. Allison has never presented costs or findings to the board. He always promised he’ll have that information at the next meeting. I would have to see ITEMIZED planned expenditures with the inclusion of future needs of plans in 2-4 years … down to the minute details … no supposition, but actual costs.

Finally, where are the GJHS students going to be ‘repurposed’ without school overcrowding, and how will they get them to those schools, and what will that cost? The administration wants a blank check without transparency and oversight … or proper budgetary planning and vetting.


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