Although K-8 wasn’t on the school board’s agenda Tuesday, East Valley School District parents and teachers showed up to share their opinions.
The boardroom was so crowded people were sitting on the floor and standing along the walls.
Leslee McLachlan, president of the East Valley Education Association, said the teachers union conducted a survey of its members. Of the 275 members, 147 responded.
When asked if they thought the school board should make a decision on K-8, about 19 percent of teachers believed the board should make a decision at Tuesday’s meeting. About 42 percent believed the board should wait, about 9 percent believed the board should let the program continue and about 29 percent believed the board should make a decision by spring 2015.
“They want you to find out more information,” McLachlan said. “They want their voices heard.”
Judy Bush, a grandparent of a student and a volunteer at Otis Orchards School, said she has experience in managing grounds and buildings, so she understands the previous board’s decision to consolidate their buildings.
“When you do that, you have to give some adjustment time,” she said. “I would like to ask, please, take your time.”
Theresa Haws is a parent of a freshman, a fifth-grader and a fourth-grader. She said her oldest daughter had the luxury of attending the middle school.
“It was actually the best thing,” she said. Her daughter made friends from around the district and when she arrived at the high school this fall, she actually knew some sophomores, making the transition into high school easier.
She had music five days a week. She had a locker so she didn’t have to carry her books, coats, and other items around with her all day. She had a place to change for gym class.
Tim Severns, a math and science teacher at Trent School, said there are many positive aspects for the K-8 system, especially the opportunity to get to know the students and their families. He felt the facilities are lacking the capacity to house the program right now. In his science classroom, he only has two electrical outlets and one sink.
“I can argue with none of the comments made tonight,” said Superintendent John Glenewinkel, but said people are nostalgic for something that didn’t exist.
“When I arrived (at the district), students were eating in classrooms,” he said. “Facility issues have been here since 1996,” when voters last approved a bond. There was a different population in East Farms and apartment complexes have been built in the Trent area.
“Represent the voice of all children in this district,” he told the board.
Board chairman Mike Novakovich said he had been attending board meetings in other districts and noticed there were many reports from committees formed from parents and staff members – he specifically noted Central Valley School District’s committees they are holding as the district rewrites its strategic plan. He suggested East Valley form similar committees.
Glenewinkel said the district has formed committees in the past, most notably in 2009 when the district expected large funding cuts from the state. Parents and staff told the district what their most important issues were and what programs they wanted to keep.
Board member Mike Harris suggested a group that would involve community members more. Board member Justin Voelker suggested one for strategic planning and agreed with Harris there should be one for community engagement.
Board member Mitch Jensen said he is in agreement with this plan, but remembers the issues that cropped up with these committees in the past.
“We can’t all attend because it becomes a board meeting,” Jensen said, concerned about abiding by state public meeting statutes. He added that in the past, sometimes a board member would commit to attend the committee meeting, but didn’t. People didn’t feel like anything was accomplished in these meetings and stopped coming.
Novakovich also suggested the board hold a work session for conversations with the community.
“We need to have some discourse back and forth,” he said. The district will announce when this will happen on a later date.