School board members will listen to public input before voting on a proposal to close Dean Street Elementary School, officials said.
The Woodstock School District 200 Board of Education heard the first formal presentation from the Facilities Review Committee May 30.
The committee, made up of district employees, board members and residents, researched ways for the district to save money and utilize some of its extra classroom space.
Central to the committee’s final proposal is closing Dean, one of District 200’s oldest schools, which has an enrollment of about 300 students. This would go hand-in-hand with a plan to separate elementary schools into mono- or dual-language schools. Currently, most schools have both programs — some classes are taught entirely in English while others combine English and Spanish instruction.
If the plan is approved by board members, elementary schools would have either mono- or dual-language classes, but not both. Parents could continue to choose which program their children entered regardless of where they live.
Separating elementary schools by language program would allow teachers more opportunities to collaborate and give students a chance to have different classmates from year to year, the committee said. At small schools, students often spend first through fifth grades with the same group of children because they are divided between mono- and dual-language classes, which limits the number of sections available at each grade level.
“If you were to have multiple sections at a school — two, three, four sections of the same grade — you’d be able to mix those classrooms up from year to year,” said Olson Elementary School Principal Diana Frisbie, a member of the committee. “… You could more easily have teachers collaborating, have students collaborating, because they’re on that same path of instruction.”
The committee also suggested selling the district’s primary administrative building at 227 W. Judd St., ending its lease on an administrative annex across the street and renting available space in its high schools to colleges.
Selling the administrative building on Judd Street could bring in about $400,000, based on comparable properties in the area, according to district documents. The district spends about $67,000 annually to rent the annex. That lease expires in September.
Dean will need about $2 million in capital improvements over the next five years if kept open, according to district documents. The school at 600 Dean St. was built in 1921 and added onto in 1969, district documents state.
In total, if the school board were to close Dean, sell the administrative building and end its annex lease, District 200 could save about $729,000 annually, according to an estimate from the Facilities Review Committee. District 200 also could forgo long-term maintenance costs for Dean and collect money on the sale of its administrative building. Renting out classrooms to colleges could bring in additional money, although Superintendent Mike Moan told the board the district is not aware of any schools currently interested in leasing space.
Estimated cost savings from the 14 individual options considered by the committee ranged from no savings up to $3.8 million a year, district documents show.
Moan said district officials want input from parents and residents about the committee’s recommendations. He said a community engagement process is likely to begin in early fall, around the time school starts.
“The key part to the engagement is, these are big changes, and if we’re going to even discuss them, we want parents to have the opportunity to sit down, hear the full presentation, ask questions, interact with staff and then be able to speak to the board,” Moan said.