Fourth graders get the superintendent’s ear |

Fourth graders get the superintendent’s ear

Scott N. Miller
Special to the DailyStudents at Meadow Mountain Elementary wrote letters about possible changes facing the school district.

EAGLE-VAIL – A fourth grade class project may help shape the Eagle County School District’s future.The kids in Tracy Teetaert’s fourth grade class at Meadow Mountain Elementary School started looking at information from the district’s “Coming Attractions” meetings held last month. The kids then distilled the information and wrote down their opinions about what the district should do over the next few years. The kids also split into groups, and wrote and gave Power Point presentations to their classmates.When the essays were written and the Power Point demonstrations were ready, district Superintendent John Brendza came by to see what the kids had created. What Brendza saw was pro and con arguments about four possible plans to ease crowding at some district schools:• Shifting boundaries between elementary schools to put students now attending Meadow Mountain into schools in Avon and Edwards.

• Moving school boundaries and putting fifth graders into middle school.• Creating a junior high school system out of the district’s four middle schools, with fifth and sixth graders in their own buildings and seventh, eighth and ninth graders put in others.• Creating a special school for kids in kindergarten through second grade who don’t speak much English. That plan also includes boundary changes.All those options would solve current and future crowding problems at Meadow Mountain, but all have their disadvantages.Kids on the con side of every option expressed some fear that friends would be separated. In the case of the special school for English learners, siblings could end up in different schools.What they wantSeveral of the student essays mention what students don’t want. For instance, Anais Coudoury wrote, “Although changing boundaries will solve the capacity problem at Meadow Mountain Elementary School, I am still against it.”

Asked what she would like, Coudoury said the idea for a junior high seems like a good one. Several other students said they like the junior high idea.Sayer Addington stuck to his guns, though. His essay supported a boundary change for the school, and he said he’s sticking with that idea.No matter what the students’ opinions are, it’s obvious a lot of effort and thought went into the project.”I’m so impressed with the quality of work,” Brendza said. “In terms of taking a position, and then defining that position, in an essay and in a presentation, it’s just an incredible life lesson.”Not just academicThat may be because the future of Meadow Mountain is a very real issue to the students, teachers and parents there.When the possibility of closing Meadow Mountain and turning the space into classrooms for Battle Mountain High School appeared on an option list shown to the school board Feb. 9, the response was swift.

The problem at Meadow MountainMeadow Mountain Elementary School is now at its capacity of roughly 245 students. School district projections indicate the school will be at more than 120 percent of capacity by the 2008-09 school year without some sort of changes.

A week later, Brendza was talking to, and taking a lot of heat from, a group of about 100 parents, all of whom opposed closing the school.No decisions about the school’s future, or any other option, have been made yet, Brendza told the parents at that meeting. The decision the school board finally makes – probably some time this spring – will come after at least one more set of meetings, which will be held next week.And, Brendza said, the opinions expressed by the Meadow Mountain fourth graders will probably play at least some role in the decision the school board finally makes.”Any information we can gather, we’re going to look at,” Brendza said. “And any time we can take students’ perspectives, you have to take it into consideration.”But Brendza has said several times lately that whatever decision the district makes will be tough. That’s a message third grader Robert Dandy seems to have heard already.”No matter what happens, this will still be a huge issue,” Dandy said.Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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