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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Some initial thoughts on the MPS long-range master facilities plan

by folkbum

My "beat" when I write about education here in Milwaukee tends to be Bay View and the Bay View-adjacent areas (plus, I teach at Bay View Middle and High School), so when the district's long-range master facilities plan report (pdf) (shorter executive summary here, pdf) went live earlier tonight, I immediately scanned through for the impact on Bay View and Bay View-adjacent schools. The short answer on that front? None. No Bay View schools are recommended for any closure or movement in year one of the plan.

The caveat being that the plan doesn't list any specific recommendations for schools in years 2-10, just general numbers like "open 2 elementary schools" or "close 6-9 secondary schools." After year one, in other words, schools in my "beat" may be on the table.

What's on the table in year one, though, is this (links to MPS school pages for reference):Because I do not know these schools well, I can't comment personally on whether this is a good set of changes. However, the report makes a persuasive case for each one. No doubt every one of these proposed changes will have detractors, and what the Board ultimately does with the recommendations is, of course, to be seen. Tuesday's Board meeting will probably be long and possibly contentious.

But one major thing strikes me about the report and its recommendations, which is that the closures and movements recommended for year one actually do not address the excess capacity MPS already faces. The report identifies an excess capacity right now of more than 9000 student seats (assuming 90% capacity utilization as optimum) but cuts capacity by barely anything at all. This is in part because the plan expands some programs and creates a whole new 6-12 Montessori program (1250 projected students enrolled). In essence, while some elementary seats do disappear, others shift around and new seats open up at the 6-12 level. This creates an issue for years two through ten when additional seats will need cutting to make up for the ones created in year one.

I know some of this is because MPS is lopsided, with half-empty programs where they don't need to be and schools stuffed to the gills in other parts of the city that need relief. But at this time of budget crunch--more in my next post!--any opportunity to cut more wasteful costs should be seized.

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