The Two Way Immersion program apparently will not move from Glacier Edge and Sugar Creek elementary schools when attendance boundaries change in fall 2020.
The school board looked at a pair of new attendance boundary options Monday that would have shifted the program either entirely to Glacier Edge or part of it to Stoner Prairie, and board members agreed the options were not likely to get their support. That was especially true given the programmatic changes that would come along with any shift.
“I’m not sure with any big TWI move that between now and the end of the summer we have enough time to really dig deep into the programmatic and … student relationship implications,” board president Noah Roberts said. “That would have to be an exhaustive process.”
Neither of the options was among the three the Attendance Area Advisory Committee had forwarded to the board in April after months of meetings. The board had requested information about how potential TWI movement would affect diversity numbers at the schools, and that resulted in its consultant creating new options, labeled F and G.
The board eventually accomplished member Tom Duerst’s goal of getting “past TWI somehow tonight,” settling whether it would move so that they could move onto other aspects of the plans.
Boundaries will shift in fall 2020 when the new Verona Area High School opens. Along with that move, Badger Ridge Middle School will move into the current high school building, charter schools will move into both the K-Wing and high school building and Sugar Creek Elementary School will move to BRMS.
The move will create extra capacity for Sugar Creek – up to 723 students – and an opportunity to alleviate projected overcrowding at both Glacier Edge and Country View.
Statistics on the boundary change options requested by the board also included questions about where TWI students live, demographics of students who would move under the three options recommended by the 29-member Attendance Area Advisory Committee and what would happen if there were no changes to the current boundaries.
The board did not explicitly discuss any of the AAAC recommendations – but board member Kristina Navarro-Haffner said toward the end of the 90-minute conversation all three are “still very strongly under consideration.”
Those options are:
• A1, which is generally similar to today’s maps and mostly unifies the Verona Road-area neighborhoods;
• D1, which would have Sugar Creek and Country View partner, with one serving grades K-2 and the other 3-5, and keep the Two Way Immersion program housed entirely at SC and Glacier Edge. It would increase busing costs by 20 percent;
• E, also generally similar to today’s maps, but it purposely plans to put Country View over capacity in anticipation of building another elementary school before 2025, which would require a referendum.
The board is expected to continue its discussion at the June 17 meeting, as not all board members will be present June 3 for the next scheduled meeting.
Whatever option the board decides on, the data presented Monday by consultant Mark Roffers made it clear something needs to change from the current boundaries.
“It has come up, do we have to change our boundaries now?” Roberts said. “We have current overcrowding at one school … it’s always important we are being proactive so it doesn’t get to the point where we have to make an emergency fix.”
No TWI changes
One of the challenges with altering the TWI program would be how it affects diversity.
Projections from Roffers on options F and G Monday showed that at least one of the four elementaries would have 10 percent fewer students of color than the next lowest in either plan. They would also create larger disparities in English Learners at the schools.
That left three board members openly stating they wouldn’t consider option F, which would have moved all of TWI to Glacier Edge and would have had the other three elementaries be attendance area based. As a result, they told Roffers not to worry about gathering further data, such as potential busing costs.
Option G would have shifted the Glacier Edge part of TWI to Stoner Prairie, with some board members hoping it would help alleviate some overcrowding at Glacier Edge. VASD director of bilingual programming and instructional equity Laurie Burgos said that would create challenges in maintaining relationships with Spanish-speaking families. She said Glacier Edge is a “shining star” in having that trust with families.
“It would be a hardship on our program, quite frankly, to start fresh,” Burgos said. “It’s definitely more than just moving students and classroom teachers.”
The group also briefly discussed option C, which the AAAC had considered, to house all of TWI at the larger Sugar Creek building. While that would have built-in extra capacity for the program to expand, Burgos pointed out there is no wait list for the English Learner side of the program, so expansion requires some assumptions that might not bear out.
The three options from the AAAC vary in how many and what students they would affect.
District data and assessment specialist Allison Gunderson showed the school board how many students would move under each of the three options the AAAC recommended, along with the percentage of those students that were of color, low socioeconomic status or scored poorly on standardized tests.
Option D1, which would have Sugar Creek and Country View combine as a K-2/3-5 pair of schools, would move 920 students, nearly three times as many students as the next-highest option. Option A1 would move 316, while E would move 177.
But E also would have the highest percentage of students of color and low socioeconomic status moving, at 37 and 38 percent, respectively. That compares to 21 and 15 percent in A1 and 32 and 29 percent in D1.
At the May 4 board meeting, Navarro-Haffner expressed concern that any moves could disproportionately affect students already struggling academically.
“How would we, through this process, try our best to not disrupt the kids who already comprise those kids in the achievement gap?” she asked May 4. “We recognize that every transition and every disruption may work against us in terms of closing that gap.”
According to Gunderson’s data, each of the plans is similar and generally on track with the district’s overall scores.
In reading, 46 percent of the students moving in A1 scored “basic or below basic” on the Forward Exam in 2017-18, while D1 was at 52 percent and E at 57. In math, it was 52 percent for A1, 53 percent for D1 and 55 percent for E.