Closing Marquette: A preposterous idea

A letter to the editor that appeared in the Cap Times:

Dear Editor: As leaders in the Marquette neighborhood, we are extremely disappointed with the discussion of possibly closing Marquette Elementary School.
The Marquette neighborhood is an incredible success story. The economic upswing of this neighborhood has been tied directly to the positive programs being presented at Marquette and Lapham schools.
The $3.5 million addition and improvements made to the O’Keeffe/Marquette complex a few years ago brought incredible stability to this neighborhood. The voters and taxpayers citywide realized the importance of the improvements in keeping families in the downtown area and overwhelmingly approved this expenditure. It would be an egregious slight to abandon this elementary school as throngs of young families have moved into the Marquette neighborhood and greatly improved the housing stock and precipitated a building boom.
It is unprecedented that a diverse neighborhood that could walk in close to 300 students to fill their re-modeled school in a kindergarten through fifth grade configuration would be threatened with closing. It would be beyond belief that a School Board would ask a neighborhood to send five busloads of students to a crowded Lapham building at a cost of $36,000 per bus or $180,000 for the upcoming school year. We support the continuing elementary programs at Marquette and Lapham and keeping O’Keeffe Middle School at its current size.
We realize the school funding dilemma that the whole state faces has led to this situation. We are hoping that these inequities will change and that the option to de-stabilize our community is taken off the table.
Judy Olson
6th District alderperson
Anya Firszt
president,Greater Williamson Area Business Association
Gary Kallas
director, Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center
Published: March 22, 2007

9 thoughts on “Closing Marquette: A preposterous idea”

  1. I empathize and understand the desire for the school to maintain its local situation. However, for what it is worth, the constant and continued argument that placing your child on a bus is such a huge negative does not register with me. I have three lovely children that have been bused to Crestwood and there are 7 buses that send children to this school. Stephens I believe is in a similar situation if not one more bus. We all feel this is our community school and we have a very strong PTO as does Stephens. So the issue of busing seems to ring hollow to me…….both our school score very well on test, we have Allied Drive students, and we have a very involved parent organization. This is my community school whether my children ride the bus or not. What exactly is the issue that makes busing a child in a reasonable amount of time so awful. I’ve been doing this for 8 years times 3 kids and it ain’t so bad!

  2. I don’t blame them, I’d be upset too. Both of my kids went to a neighborhood elementary school and the feeling of community that is shared is really something that you don’t experience if your kids end up taking a bus to school. Most parents walked their kids to school and often hung around to catch up. I remember the first day of school every year – the school grounds were absolutely abuzz with parents and kids excited to see one another and excited to be back at school. The school hosted countless after hours events and they were well attended by the community – the Lip Sync, the Strawberry Fest, the International Dinner – we were there constantly. The whole neighborhood was invested in the school. I have such fond memories of that time in our lives and they are a direct result of that neighborhood school. If my kids had gotten on a bus to go to school in the morning, as a working parent I would have never had those experiences.
    I feel their pain and it saddens me. It’s not really about the bus ride.

  3. Yes exactly. We have a dance, carnival, school picnic, game nights, social events, international day, music performances, after school clubs and the list goes on….I even walk, although it takes me 20 – 25 minutes to my school, on beatiful days. My point is a neighborhood school is where your children attend. It is not based on the physical location of the school. Either parents are involved and socialize, which we mom’s have a book club, bunco, social hours and beyond, or they don’t but it is not based on the location of our school. It is based on our desire to be involved.

  4. The issue here really is city schools vs. fringe schools…city homes vs. sprawl. Marquette parents who voted for the fall referrendum will now bus their kids past a school they should be walking to. This while they help pay for a NEW school for kids and parents to enjoy on the far west side. They get to watch their property values go down, while they personally finance the appreciation of homes on the far west side. I wonder, how many would vote for the referendum now? Virtually all other options considered at the time (boundary changes, etc) must now look better to the Marquette parents. As a parent who does not live in that neighborhood, I must say that I wish every cent we are spending to build a new school out in some farm pasture was instead being poured into our city elementary schools. Then maybe, just maybe the drive on HWY M, PD or whatever else is out there wouldn’t be quite as attractive.

  5. The issue here is not fringe vs. city schools. The issue is a lack of honesty in the school district leadership.
    The district should serve the most kids as close to where they live as possible while taking into consideration budgetary constraints. The new west-side school simply addresses that issue, but so does closing and consolidating some low enrollment schools.
    As is typical of this district, the district leadership never honestly and openly dealt with budgetary issues of operating the new school. But anyone with any sense could predict that opening a new school and expanding in another in a district with declining or stable near-term enrollments, and facing budget cuts was going to have to close a school or two in areas of the city where enrollments are low.

  6. “The district should serve the most kids as close to where they live as possible while taking into consideration budgetary constraints.” I don’t think this is the only consideration. If this is the mission, then is it time to break up pairings like Franklin/Randall? Or should considerations be given to balancing race, ethnic, and socioeconomic student populations? Should consideration also be given to neighborhood schools with a rich history located in the city? The critical question: How else will we keep families in the city and in the district? (Sprawl ultimately sprawls all the way past our attendance area and into other districts.)
    I am not sure what honest and open communication would have changed or reframed this issue. A referendum is a pretty open method of communication. I have not heard of unanticipated costs for the new school gobbling up next year’s budget and adding to the current need for cuts.
    I think it is important we recognize this issue for what it is, and as a result come to terms with what we are doing to our city elementary schools. We are on the verge of locking the doors on schools that once where and should be the heart and soul of our district. Why is recognizing this important? The closings come at a time when there are legitimate concerns about bright and white flight in the district. (Legitimate based simply on enrollment numbers reflecting slight decline in overall enrollment, an increase in minority enrollment, an increase in low income enrollment, and a decline in white enrollment This = legitimate.)
    If anyone with sense could have prevented this would happen, then there must have been enough honest and open communication by the forces that be. Again, no level of communication would have changed or reframed this issue. We need to recognize what is happening, regardless of concerns about communication.

  7. parentcc:
    You make some great points except I’m confused what you mean that communication wouldn’t have changed things. In last year’s discussions re: the referendum on building the far westside school, several times I commented here whether the construction of the far-west side school would result in central city school closures. Ed Blume similarly wrote about it from the standpoint of urban/regional planning and energy usage.
    We asked, but never heard any answers. Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me that the powers that be, as you describe them, knew what was coming, but I have to wonder how the referendum vote would have gone if voters had known what was at stake.

  8. Thanks for the clarification on the type of communication which would have been helpful. I suppose that if the referendum had asked to build the far west side school and close a city school or two, the results would have been different. It is too bad more people did not reflect on the questions you and Ed Blume posed at the time. It is too bad this analysis and information was not made available-not surprising in one regard as it likely would not have helped pass a referendum.
    If I recall, last fall the anticipated budget shortfall was 8-10 million dollars. Meaning, the ripple effects of building this new elementary school could have been made known at that time.
    What if the question had been to build the new school and provide 500,000 relief to maintain staffing at city elementary schools? (Or something to the effect of funding to keep our city schools open and well-staffed.) Maybe this also would have passed? Maybe by a much wider margin?
    It sounds like the questions you and Ed Blume aked this fall (here) are the questions that needed answers and consideration. Whether asking now or last fall, the concern seems consistent: What happens to a district when its city elementary schools close or become much less desireable than its fringe elementary schools and those in the first ring suburbs?

  9. The biggest issue I see with the proposal to consolidate Lapham/Marquette into Lapham is that it will require elimination of reduced class size at Lapham simply due to insufficient capacity by 2012. Capacity projections for 2012 at a consolidated Lapham are 87% (without reduced class size) and 108% (with reduced class size).
    A decision to consolodate these schools must follow the decision about reduced class size for these schools.
    One proposal is to eliminate reduced class size at schools with less than 30% low income – 3rd Friday in September counts for Lapham/Marquette were 29% in 2006 and 34% in 2005. I think the future trend for %low income population at this pair is not clear. I hope the board takes a hard look before heading in this direction.

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