Coolidge and Middle Grades Feedback and Updates

We spent the month of February visiting Coolidge’s four feeder education campuses: Brightwood, LaSalle-Backus, Whittier, and Takoma, to meet with parents and staff about the planning process for Coolidge and the new middle school. At each of the eight meetings, we provided background on the project, planning process, and gathered input on a few key questions:

  • What are you excited about?
  • What are you concerned about?
  • How should DCPS support families through the transition? What do you want to make sure we’re thinking about?
  • What do you want to see DCPS do to support EC staff members in the middle grades if they are not continuing with their EC, and specifically if they’re interested in transitioning to the new middle school?

Presentation from parent meetings is below:

We got a lot of helpful feedback from parent and staff communities. Below is a summary of what we heard:

  • What are you excited about?
    • Middle school and elementary students each having their own space. More space in the feeder schools for enrichment and other activities.
    • Traditional middle school experience for 6-8th graders. More space for both elementary school students and middle school students.
    • With a larger middle school enrollment, more comprehensive offerings that come with a larger budget – sports, advanced course offerings, world languages, electives, extracurricular activities
    • New facilities
    • One middle school for the neighborhood instead of four small ones can improve alignment with the neighborhood high school.
    • Currently many of the middle grades teachers in the EC’s have to teach across multiple grades or content areas. If they transition to a more comprehensive middle school they are likely to be able to focus more on one grade level and content.
  • What are you concerned about?
    • Crowding in the area with an elementary, middle, and high school in close proximity. Safety, parking, crowd control.
    • Proximity of the middle school to Coolidge High school. What will potential interactions and shared spaces look like?
    • Transportation, especially for further away schools like LaSalle-Backus
    • Programming at MS – what will it look like? Advanced offerings? SPED?
    • Transition challenges of bringing together four different middle grades and their own cultures
    • Teacher support – what will DCPS do to help middle grades teachers who may be out of a job post-transition? How early can these supports be communicated?
    • Will there be limited space or enrollment?
    • Potential to lose positive elements of each individual school’s culture
    • Support for families, particularly Spanish speaking families (but also Amharic speaking) who may need extra attention navigating the transition
    • Support for the EC’s as they transition to elementary schools – how will their budget be impacted? Will they be able to have the same offerings?
  • What thoughts or ideas do you have to make the transition successful for students, families, and teachers?
    • Lots of opportunities for parents, students, and staff to collaborate and build relationships on the front end – can parents get together and begin forming a PTA before the school opens? Can they begin collaborating on school culture and climate?
    • Communicate early and often to staff about what the transition will look like, what support they will have, and when they will have it.
    • Think about how can students from the four schools begin to build culture before the school opens – barbecues, retreats, sporting events or other extracurricular collaborations.
    • Home visits to EC feeder students or enrolled students
    • Bring students in to visit the new school before it opens

We’ll be continuing our engagement of the Coolidge community and its four feeder communities over the next two and a half years. In the more immediate term, we should have a proposed staffing policy for EC middle grades teachers public this spring, and will be at the Ward 4 Education Alliance meeting on Thursday, March 9th at Whittier EC at 6:30pm to discuss Coolidge’s planning process and building modernization. Join us!

As always, feel free to get in touch at DCPS.Planning@dc.gov.

Collecting Input on Potential Ward 4 North Middle School

This post breaks down the details of the potential Ward 4 Middle School opening. One important note is that if the middle school is opened, it wouldn’t happen until School Year 2019-2020. Not this year, the next year, or the year after that. Current third graders at the feeder education campuses would be the first sixth graders if opened.

Background

In 2014, the Deputy Mayor for Education’s office recommended the opening of a new middle school in Ward 4 (New North) as part of its final boundary and feeder assignment recommendations.  This recommendation would open a new middle school in northern Ward 4, converting the four education campuses that currently feed into Coolidge to elementary schools (PK-5th grade instead of PK-8th grade). Those schools are Brightwood, Whittier, Lasalle-Backus, and Takoma Education Campuses.

Two driving factors behind this recommendation were parent/community input and the space constraints at the four education campuses. During the boundary and feeder recommendation community engagement process, parents and community members expressed desire for more stand-alone middle school options, giving both elementary and middle school students more of a traditional elementary and middle school experience. In addition, the education campuses feeding into Coolidge are facing the challenge of growing enrollment that is approaching the capacity in their buildings. Opening a middle school and moving the middle grades there would relieve some of that pressure.

Opportunity

One of the biggest challenges in opening this potential middle school has been securing the space and capital funding to build it. The upcoming modernization of Coolidge High School is an opportunity to have both the space and funding for a middle school, by including a middle school build in the scope of the work being done on Coolidge. There is both money in Coolidge’s modernization budget of roughly $160 million, and space on Coolidge’s south lawn (see below) for middle school construction. In the recently completed feasibility study for Coolidge’s modernization, two of the three options include the construction of a middle school.

coolidge-south-lawn   The Coolidge campus has sufficient space in its south lawn to construct a middle school.

middle-school-renderingArchitect rendering from feasibility study of possible middle school build south of Coolidge High School building.

Gathering Input

In addition to securing space and budget, another important piece in the decision on whether to open a middle school is parent, staff, and community input — do the parents at Brightwood, Whittier, Lasalle-Backus, and Takoma Education Campuses want a stand-alone middle school? Do the teachers and staff? Community members living in the Coolidge boundary? We on the School Planning Team have been working to answer those questions since last spring, with parent meetings, student focus groups, regular Coolidge Community Working Group meetings, and a survey we put out to parents and staff at Coolidge feeder schools.

As the DCPS Facilities Team collects feedback on the Coolidge feasibility study, the Planning Team will continue to analyze enrollment and academic data and meet with Coolidge Community Members, particularly parents from Coolidge’s four feeder education campuses: Lasalle-Backus, Brightwood, Takoma, and Whittier. DCPS will need to make a final decision on the potential middle school by late fall in order to stay on track with Coolidge’s construction timeline. We’ve met with parents at Brightwood and Whittier already, and have upcoming meetings at Lasalle-Backus (10/6) and Takoma (10/20). We are also meeting with school staff along with regular meetings with the Coolidge Community Working Group.

whittierWhittier parents discussing potential middle school and building modernization.lbec1lbec2                                     Lasalle-Backus families filling out the survey at Back to School night

If you’d like to weigh in, please click on the relevant survey link for your language. The results of our survey up to 9/21/16 are below.

Ward 4 North Middle School Survey – English and Spanish

Ward 4 North Middle School Survey – French

Ward 4 North Middle School Survey – Amharic

w4nms-survey-digest-1w4nms-survey-digest-2

Coolidge Community Working Group Reviews Feasibility Study

The Coolidge Community Working Group met last week to review the feasibility study for Coolidge’s building modernization, providing feedback on three different options for the modernization. The three options are for a comprehensive high school, and two different possibilities for a potential middle school on Coolidge’s grounds at 5th and Sheridan. Stay tuned to the planning blog for more on the potential middle school option.

See below for meeting notes and the full feasibility study.

Coolidge Feasibility Study

Coolidge Working Group – Feasibility Study Review Meeting Notes

Coolidge Community Working Group Members

The Coolidge Community Working Group (CWG) is coming together for its second meeting this Thursday evening for a building walk-through and a meeting with the feasibility study architects. We on the School Planning and Facilities teams at DCPS have had an opportunity to meet one on one with most of the group members, and are excited about the folks who have come together to engage around their neighborhood high school. The members, along with their connection to Coolidge High School, are below.

Name Connection to Coolidge SHS
Alexis Richburg Coolidge Staff Member
Allen V. Banks Coolidge Staff Member
Andrea Browning Community Member/Neighbor
Andrella Smith Coolidge Alumnus/Alumna
Charles Anthony Woods, I Coolidge Parent
Courtney Savoy Coolidge Staff Member
Dawn Person Coolidge Alumnus/Alumna
Diane Jackson Whittier EC Parent
Elizabeth Roen Prospective parent
Frank Jones III ANC Commissioner
Howard A. Burnett Coolidge Alumnus/Alumna
Julie Lawson Whittier EC Parent
MaryEllen McGuire Community Member/Neighbor
Megan Fitzgerald Prospective parent
Michael Cohen Community Member/Neighbor
Nancy Smith Community Member/Neighbor
Peter Sprunger Whittier EC Parent
Randi Williams Community Member/Neighbor
Ricardo Campos LaSalle-­‐Backus EC Staff Member
Robert Bettmann Prospective parent
Sarah Raskin Takoma EC Parent
Scot Knickerbocker ANC 4B03
Shawn Ruffing Coolidge Alumnus/Alumna
Shirley Richardson Community Member/Neighbor
Terry Goings Community Member/Neighbor

Coolidge Community Working Group Notes

It’s been a while since our last Coolidge update. We’re excited about this one because it’s the first of many more over the coming months and years as we begin the school’s modernization process. The Coolidge Working Group officially kicked off this week with its first meeting on Tuesday, May 10th. Notes are here, recap below.

The Coolidge Community Working Group is unique because it combines responsibilities typically associated with a Community Cabinet (school programming) with those typically associated with a School Improvement Team (building modernization). Because both processes are starting at the same time, members have an opportunity to give input on both the modernized school building and some of the elements that go inside of it.

At Tuesday’s meeting we asked the group to begin thinking about how we should gather feedback about the school from the larger network of prospective parents and community members. It was a rich discussion among our stakeholders and an energizing start to the project for all of us at DCPS. Coolidge buzz is growing!

Coolidge High School Needs Your Input

Applications are now open for the Coolidge High School Community Cabinet and School Improvement Team (SIT)! To learn more and apply, fill out the google form here. Below are informational links describing in more detail the responsibilities and function of each group.

Questions? Contact DCPS.Planning

090115 Community Cabinet_Frequently Asked Questions

SIT Overview