Sunday, November 22, 2015

How the District keeps track of millions of dollars of classroom space

COMMENTARY: (Susan Wilkins)  I have a 2010-2011 student directory from Horace Mann Elementary that lists 19 teachers in 19 classrooms in the school. But look at the LWSD 6-Year Capital Facilities Plan and it says that Horace Mann has 17 classrooms. Which is it? 17 classrooms or 19 classrooms? I brought up this discrepancy with Janene Fogard who is the acting facilities planner for the district. I was told that I needed to meet with Barbara Posthumous who is the Director of Finance because she was in charge of classroom counts for the district. (I actually don't know why she is in charge of this.)

I went to Barbara's office and she took out a photocopy of Horace Mann's floor plan and proceeded to number the rooms at Horace Mann with a pen. She numbered the classrooms from 1 to 19, then she looked at another sheet and said that two rooms were "resource rooms" so that Horace Mann had 17 rooms. Which rooms were 'resource rooms' and what were the resource rooms used for? She did not know. I pointed out that my directory said that Horace Mann had 19 classrooms that were clearly used as classrooms. We argued whether Horace Mann had 19 or 17 rooms for another 30 minutes until she needed to get to another meeting. Two rooms is not a lot; however, the district has 56 'resource rooms' in its elementary schools - enough classroom space for 3 additional schools. 

I found the whole experience to be unreal. Was the district really keeping track of millions of dollars of classroom space using a pen and paper? The district says that they have 56 'resource rooms.' What are they all used for? Many members of the task force asked for a space audit and a classroom inventory to find out what the classrooms were being used for. From January through June, Janene Fogard refused to authorize a space audit until school was out and then stated that the district would do a space inventory in the future. 

The district isn't sure how all of its classroom space is being used, or if it's being used efficiently, but they've declared a space shortage because of surging enrollment and they want taxpayers to fund a bond.  I have my concerns.  

Commentary by Susan Wilkins
Member of the Task Force for Facilities Planning

4 comments:

Paige Norman said...

Susan, thanks for staying on top of this. I remember you reported on this about 5-ish years ago with similar information. It's sad that the District STILL isn't accountable for actual classroom space.

The truth is that LWSD has a lot of options but they choose to spend their money on lattes (portables) instead of a coffeemaker (long-term building like B-Wing at RHS) and want the taxpayers to pay for a Bugatti (no car seats, horrible gas mileage) instead of a mini-van.

I'm unhappy that the newest 250+ report has a lot of information but no real SOLUTIONS. I'm going to be even unhappier, I suspect when the numbers for the Bond requests come through...

Bob Yoder said...

I am taken by the loss of classrooms due to Resource Rooms. What are Resource Rooms used for? Are they necessary?

Polona Brooks said...

My son used a resource room daily when he was in Horace Mann. It's a classroom used by a special needs teacher or a Safety Net teacher to conduct their classes. No, they usually don't have 25 kids in those classrooms, but they are used to conduct instruction for students that are on IEPs or 504 plans. They are also used for Safty Net students who need additional support to be brought up to grade level. When my son frist got an IEP plan, his Special Ed teacher did not have a classroom. She was in a small pod office, with the kids crammed into every corner of it. She did not even have enough room to store all her educational materials in it. It was noisy and certainly not appropriate for instructional time with kids that struggle as it is. I think that every school should have classrooms dedicated to special needs, safety net, art, ELL, computer lab, music. Should we call them a classroom or a resource room? I don't care. I care about quality education for all our kids. It will only happen if we are willing to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

Bob,

Resource rooms can have multiple uses, including:

For special-education students that are receiving individual instruction.

For teaching subjects like music, art, or for dedicated computer labs. These rooms may not have a homeroom class in them, but are still used on a regular basis.

For before-school or after-school childcare.

Also, there are federal and state laws regarding accomodation for students with disabilities or special needs. This can result in the need for dedicated space in the school apart from the regular classrooms.