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Delavan-Darien to re-examine possible school structure changes

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Delavan-Darien School District | October 9, 2013

DELAVAN — Officials at the Delavan-Darien School District are planning to revisit options for changing the way several of the district's school buildings are used to find the best educational efficiency possible.

Five public forums for parents and community members will be held throughout fall to discuss the possible changes and generate feedback and input from anyone interested in the future of Delavan-Darien schools.

The times and dates of the community meetings are:
·       1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday, October 29
·       5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 19
·       6 p.m. Monday, December 2

All meetings will likely be held at the School Administration Center boardroom (324 Beloit St., Delavan). If large crowds are expected, the location may change. Check the school district's website (www.ddschools.org) for changes, or call 262-728-2642 ext. 4813.

Last winter, the district began exploring moving to a “learning center school” model, which would involve restructuring the use of the district's three elementary buildings and Phoenix Middle School. The ideas included shifting what grades are housed in certain buildings.

In April, after more than a dozen public meetings and various staff meeting to discuss changes, Superintendent Robert Crist recommended no structural changes for this current school year.

Many of the concerns expressed at the public meetings this past winter were about the speed at which these changes might occur,” Crist said. “Those concerns, along with others we've heard, have merit and I wanted to take the time to rethink these possibilities we brought up.

“The ideas for structural changes have merit, too. I want to bring them up again because we feel they can improve the quality of instruction within our district and make our school district operation more efficient. Before going forward, though, we wanted to share our ideas again and gather more public input into the possibilities for changing our building structures.”

Currently, the district's schooling structure is this:
·       Darien Elementary — Early Childhood program, Grades 4-year-old Kindergarten through Grade 5
·       Turtle Creek Elementary and Wileman Elementary — Grades 4-year-old Kindergarten through Grade 5
·       Phoenix Middle School — Headstart program and Grades 6-8
·       DDHS — Grades 9-12

There are about eight sections of each grade — kindergarten through grade 8 — with Turtle Creek holding four sections and Darien and Wileman each holding two sections.

The structural changes being considered currently include:
·       Moving all fifth grade sections to Phoenix Middle School while keeping grades 6-8 there;
·       Developing a “two schools within a school” model at Phoenix by having fifth and sixth graders together in an area of the building with an administrator and seventh and eighth graders together in a separate area of the building with an administrator;
·       Designating Wileman Elementary as an early learning center by having it house the Headstart and Early Childhood programs along with 4-year-old kindergarteners;
   
Also, Darien and Turtle Creek could have various configurations, including:
·       Darien housing all sections of kindergarten and grade 1 with Turtle Creek housing all sections of grades 2-4;
·       Turtle Creek housing kindergarten through grade 2 and Darien housing grades 3-4;
·       Or, Darien housing approximately three sections of kindergarten through grade 4, and Turtle Creek housing approximately five sections of kindergarten through grade four.
   
“Nothing has been decided as of yet, and maybe other ideas are possible that we haven't thought of,” Crist said. “We do know that different school districts operate with different grade configurations. Perhaps a different configuration could make the educational experience for our students even better.

“Last spring, the board kept the door open to examine this issue again, and we're doing that because we feel there can be tremendous benefits for our students with a different grade configuration for our buildings.” 

Some of the benefits included balancing class sizes, demographics and ability levels; having all students of a graduating class together longer during their school years; having district programs available to all students because all students within a grade are in one building (example: a dual-language immersion program); elimination of in-district boundary lines, which would result in fewer in-district students going from school to school if they move residences within the district; a possible change in school hours to give students the best opportunity to learn with more appropriate start and end times; and increased staff development and collaboration to improve classroom techniques and student learning.

Disadvantages for such a “center school” model might include: adding a building transition for students; not having traditional “neighborhood” schools; having siblings attending different schools; increasing travel distances to and from school; and possibly having longer bus rides, among others.

“We've spoken with other district personnel where models like these proposals exist, and there are advantages and disadvantages,” Crist said. “If there are opportunities for us to improve the education that occurs within our district, and a chance to operate more efficiently, I feel we need to explore those opportunities fully.

 “We had some great community conversations last school year, and I want to continue those because the conversations are about finding ways to improve our schools. That's a goal everyone in a school community should agree with and that's what we're doing here with another round of public discussions about these possibilities. I look forward to continuing this process.”

The details of the possible proposals will be discussed at the community forums with members of the district's administrative team and staff. Attendees will have opportunities to provide input and ask questions. All parents and community members within the Delavan-Darien School District are invited and encouraged to attend.

A final recommendation and board decision is expected to occur by mid-December.



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