The contract is for community engagement services ahead of district right-sizing.

Burlington School District residents will have plenty of opportunities to voice their concerns and/or ideas about district realignment in the coming months during community engagement meetings.

The Burlington School Board on Monday approved the contract with Davenport-based architect firm BLDD Architects in which the district will pay the firm no more than $20,000 for community involvement planning services related to the closure of a school building and realignment of the remaining buildings.

The board has met several times with the firm to review possible scenarios relating to "right-sizing" the district, which, like about 80 percent of Iowa school districts, has experienced a steady decline in enrollment over the years.

Superintendent Pat Coen said the district experienced a decline of 154 students from the previous year.

"That's six classrooms of 25 students," Coen said. "From the looks of it, we haven’t signed a lot of open enrollment forms, so people are continuing to move out of Burlington."

It's a trend that doesn't appear will change any time in the near future as people are having fewer children.

The services BLDD Architects will provide include a staff input session, which will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 24, and three subsequent community engagement forums, the first of which will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 24. Another will be from noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 27, and the third will be from 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 29. The location of those forums has not been determined.

The community forums will be set up in an open house format, allowing people to arrive as they are able.

Once there, people will go to a welcome station, where attendees will be greeted and given a form to fill out as they wait to move on to the first station, where they will hear an introduction and orientation. Stations likely will cycle through in 12-minute intervals.

After the introduction, attendees will move to another station to hear a presentation of the options at hand. Following an extensive qualitative analysis of the numerous scenarios BLDD analyzed, the school board was able to winnow them down to three. They are as follows:


Four preK through fourth grade elementary buildings; one middle school used for fifth- and sixth-graders and another for seventh- and eighth-graders;
Two elementary buildings designated for preK through first grade; two elementary buildings for second through fourth grade; one middle school used for fifth- and sixth-graders and another for seventh- and eighth-graders;
Four preK through fourth grade elementary buildings; and two fifth through eighth grade middle school buildings.

Representatives from BLDD Architects will be on hand for the presentation to explain the physical needs assessment and financial projections of each scenario. Samuel Johnson of BLDD Architects said building maps demonstrating how grades would be arranged within the buildings will be displayed during the forums.

The final station will be where people can give feedback. Manning this station will be board members, School Improvement Advisory Committee members and administrators. People will be able to give feedback through face-to-face surveys, electronically using computer stations that will be set up and pencil and paper survey copies.

Feedback from those surveys will be analyzed and factored into the board's final decision.

Board members encouraged everyone with an interest in the district to attend one of the forums.

"People who have a vested interest need to be there. We need your input," said board member Dean Vickstrom. "We make the decision but you have to live with it."

OTHER BUSINESS

In addition to the contract with BLDD Architects, the board also approved a two-year, $32,781 agreement with Hobsons for use of its Naviance program. The program is paid for with 21st Century and Perkins grant money. Curriculum Director Cory Johnson told the board the program helps the district meet the state requirement that students complete a five-year academic plan starting their eighth grade year.

"We're being legislated to tell 14-year-olds you know what you want to be when you're 14, now start planning for it, and it's ridiculous," Coen said. "So a smarter way to approach it would be this is a pathway to develop and implement a plan, so later when you do figure out what you want to be, there's a pathway. It's a cognitive code or mental map on how to get somewhere once you decide you want to get there."

Students use the program in their eighth-grade year to help determine what their interests are and what careers they might be interested as they sign up for high school classes. The program is supposed to be used continuously throughout their high school years, but student representative Kaely Lawler said that often isn't the case. 

"I just don't think that we pay attention to it," she said. "As a student, I think it's a good idea. We just don't focus on it at all (in class)."

She said students are told to use Naviance in Hound Time, but they don't know what it should be used for.