School District 72 is reviewing its decision to close schools in recent years.
The board asked staff to prepare a report on the subject, though trustees stress the move is not about re-considering the decisions.
Rather, they want to get more information about what effects the closures at Oyster River and Discovery Passage elementary schools have had. The board voted to close the schools in 2016, with students to be absorbed into catchment areas for adjacent schools.
Veteran board member Daryl Hagen brought forward the request at the Nov. 27 board meeting.
“Sometimes, it’s good to look backwards and say, ‘Was it the right decision or not?'” he said. “It’s easy to look to the future, but sometimes it’s hard to look to the past because sometimes things don’t always work out the way we thought.”
Hagen wanted to make clear his request was not about re-opening any facilities but to re-examine the lessons that could be learned from the process. He noted there have been developments since the board made a decision to close the schools, such as changes in the language concerning classroom composition as well as developments happening in the community in the area near Oyster River, particularly with a subdivision developing at Dogwood Street and growth at the Ocean Grove school. He said he wants to determine if there have been unintended outcomes.
Trustee John Kerr expressed a bit of concern, saying he expects the majority of students who would have gone to Oyster River Elementary live north of York Road, which is closer to Ocean Grove Elementary, adding that if there were any move in the future to re-open a school, it could prove difficult to get students to return from the school they currently attend.
Trustee Joyce McMann supported the idea of looking at how the transition unfolded after initially getting feedback from parents following the closures.
“It would be nice to get an update,” she said, though she added she wants to make sure the review process does not take up excessive staff time. “I think there is a sort of a check-in that might take place that wouldn’t be too cumbersome.”
Trustee Susan Wilson reiterated the point about getting an update, saying the district is approaching the halfway point of its 10-year facilities plan. The board, she said, could benefit from information about the different aspects of closing schools, which could be presented alongside other facilities plan information updates, such as the implementation of technology at school facilities. She did not want to give staff a firm deadline on the report though because of their other time commitments and priorities.
“It doesn’t have to be a really in-depth one,” she said. “It wouldn’t be the top of my priority list, but it would be of interest to get an update at some point.”
The motion carried. The staff report will consider factors such as cost savings and space implications, along with other implications for the district’s 10-year facilities plan.