Over 200 parents, teachers and community members turned out at Marion Franklin High School last night, to take part in a public forum on the Columbus City Schools' reorganization proposals.
Alison Holm has more.
Columbus City School board members would have gotten an earful about proposed school closings and reorganizations at Tuesday’s public forum – but they weren’t there.
Instead, district spokesperson Scott Varner and a myriad of district employees were tasked with explaining the recommendations from the task force, and writing down people’s concerns in small scale break out sessions. But some concerned parents and teachers objected to the format, like these parents from Siebert Elementary
“But this is a family, this is our school, this is what matters to us.”
"This is an engagement trick, so that our voices are diffused, and we can’t hear each other. We can’t make sure that certain things are heard above the noise as a whole”
Proposing closing a school is always an emotional issue. The recommendations call for closing Mifflin Middle School, as well as Buckeye and Siebert Elementaries. But Siebert teacher Amy Arnold says the task force didn’t seem to follow their own guidelines when they recommended closing her school.
“We’re over capacity, we have 360 students. That’s more students than most, if not all of the other south side schools. We have 143 ESL students, 18 different countries are represented; so you can’t use diversity, you can’t use capacity…. We just have a brand new roof, we have air conditioning… and those were the reasons that were being given.”
A key thread in the task force’s recommendations is “re-banding” grades, returning to a traditional configuration of K-5 elementary schools, 6-8 middle schools, and 9-12 high schools. Linden McKinley and Marion Franklin High Schools would become middle schools, sending their 9th through 12 graders to East and South High Schools respectively, while acquiring sixth grade students from the elementaries in their feeder patterns. But Siebert 6th grade teacher Kathy Ward says she doesn’t see a demand from parents for the traditional middle schools.
“We have a teacher in our school who came from one of the middle schools that closed in this outfit. And in his terminology it was ‘hellacious’. Fighting every day, couldn’t ever get any teaching done until he came to Siebert. Do you know how many fights are in middle school? Why would I want that for a sixth grader? Why? Who are these parents “clamoring” for traditional middle? What parent that’s ever been in one wants their child in one?”
While district staff assiduously collected comments and suggestions from the public forum, the district is running out of time to incorporate them in their final recommendations. The task force will meet again early next month to consider the public feedback and make their final recommendations to the school board. There are still two public forums scheduled: September 13th at Columbus North International, and September 20th at the district headquarters on East State Street. Full details of the Task Force recommendations are available on the Columbus City Schools website.