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Elementary Consolidation Review and Early Learning Expansion


School Board begins comprehensive study to address potential elementary consolidation and early learning program expansion

board of distinctionIn March, 2019, the Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors launched an in-depth review and outreach process focused on potential elementary consolidation and expanding early learning program access. Elementary capacity, as it relates to district finances and efficiency, is closely connected to the board study.

The district has realized a reduction of 250 elementary students over the last nine years due to shifting community demographics. As elementary student populations normalize over the next few years, the district is anticipating as many as 25 empty classrooms across its six elementary campuses. In addition, kindergarten readiness data and feedback from parents suggests a need for more early learning programs to address access and availability for Walla Walla families. This topic of expansion will be studied as well. 

The School Board has adopted a timeline for the study and Operational Understandings to help guide the process. Their study will include site visits to elementary schools, surveys, enrollment data reviews, financial impact analysis and preschool program options. The Board anticipates that decisions will not be finalized until early November. As identified, there are multiple questions that need to be answered and multiple times when stakeholders feedback will be sought. The School Board appreciates involvement and input from our staff, students and community and looks forward to this input throughout the study process.

April Pulse Video - Superintendent Wade Smith interviews School Board President Ruth Ladderud about the study. 

Operational Understandings

Elementary Consolidation Review & Early Learning Expansion Operational Understandings (pdf)

The Board has tasked itself with analyzing data - engaging staff, parent and community feedback - and deciding on a responsible course of action for implementation in the 2020-21 school year. The Board has identified that a final decision will be decided upon on or before their November 5, 2019 meeting.

Consistent with the Board’s agreed-upon strategic planning belief statements of “maximizing the impact of its resources” as well as “collaborative and transparent operation,” the Board will consider the following criteria in developing their course of action:

  • Agree upon a draft timeline to frame their analysis and outreach
  • Review, minimally, the following data and information to inform their decision:
    • Consider financial savings and other means to improve operational efficiencies
    • Better understand the prototypical elementary model and its impact on school funding
    • Analyze school capacities in addition to campus opportunities and limitations of each elementary school facility
    • Understand current student residence and neighborhood school attendance patterns
    • Analyze current and projected elementary student enrollment across the Walla Walla attendance area
    • Review early learning space requirements and compliance standards
    • Explore teaching and learning implications and program best practices
    • Consider student diversity and demographic impacts resulting from any proposed changes
  • Consistent with the recommendation of the 2017 Bilingual Committee, maintain the phased-in, two-way dual program at Edison Elementary
  • Develop one or more solutions for community feedback that:
    • increase efficiency and ensure sustainable student populations; and,
    • provide for additional classroom space for the district and/or community partners to enhance access to early learning opportunities
  • In accordance with agreed-upon Board Operational Protocols, the Board President will be the spokesperson pertaining to official board correspondences related to the Board’s involvement in this process 

News or Announcements

  • 10-10 Staff Newsletter - September 17, 2019
  • School Board President Ruth Ladderud will lead an outreach process to educate staff, parents, students and stakeholders on the study findings and next steps. She will also seek feedback to determine if anything was missed during the comprehensive study. 
  • Community Input: The School Board has implemented a standing public comment opportunity regarding this topic at every board meeting and welcomes stakeholder input.
  • Superintendent Dr. Smith communicates Board decision and Blue Ridge transition support

Timeline of Events

February 19, 2019: Board Decides to Study Elementary Consolidation and Early Learning Expansion Topics

- Board determines that it will serve as primary body to review and analyze

March 5, 2019: Elementary Capacity and Early Learning Planning Discussion
Board Discussion:
- Why are we studying this topic?
- What information or data do we think we need to know to help inform our future outreach and deliberations?
- Board reviews draft timeline created by President and VP

March 19. 2019: Timeline and Data Review/Approval, Operational Understandings, and “The Why” Outreach Process
- Board reviews and approves Timeline/data needs
- Board reviews and approves Operational Understandings
- Board discusses communications strategies

April 16: Financial Summary and Survey Creation (Survey window April 17 to May 1, 2019)

May 7, 2019: Survey Results and Early Learning Space Requirements

• Board Reviews and Discusses Survey Results
• Board Reviews Early Learning Space Requirements and Standards

May 8: Board Reviews Prototypical Model Review, Capacity and Population 

May 21, 2019: Board continues discussion on study.

  • Board members report they believe they are on the right track with the study and appreciate having the necessary time to get stakeholder input, analysis and data.
  • Public Testimony 

June 4, 2019:

June 18, 2019:

July 16, 2019: Elementary Consolidation Review and Early Learning Expansion Study:

  • Engagement with Early Learning Partner Experts (Mr. Matt Bona, Ms. Samantha Bowen, Ms. Christy Lieuallen and Ms. Meagan Anderson-Pira)
  • Early Learning Center Concept and Facility Review
  • Board Deliberations
  • Public Testimony 

August 20, 2019 Board Deliberation: 

  • Preliminary deliberation of options  (Blue Ridge named top option for potential Early Learning Center - no action or final decision was made)
  • School Board President Ruth Ladderud will lead an outreach process to educate staff, parents, students and stakeholders on the study findings and next steps. She will also seek feedback to determine if anything was missed during the comprehensive study. 
  • Public Testimony

Sept. 3, 2019 - Board Deliberation: 

  • Deliberations continue and outreach updates
  • Public Testimony

Sept. 16, 2019 - Community Outreach meeting at Blue Ridge Elementary. Approximately 50 people attended the meeting to learn the findings of the study and ask questions. No action taken. 

Sept. 17, 2019 - Staff Meeting at Blue Ridge Elementary. Staff had an opportunity to learn the findings of the study and ask questions. No action taken. 

Sept. 17, 2019 - School Board Meeting. 

  • Deliberations continue and outreach updates
  • Public Testimony

Oct 1, 2019: Review Outreach, Begin Boundary Alignment Committee Formation(Board consensus to delay the boundary realignment process until the 2020-21 school year for 2021-22 implementation)

  • Discuss input/feedback from testimony and community presentations
    • If needed, follow up on any lingering questions
    • Develop tentative Transition Support Measures(English and Spanish) for students, staff, and families

October Parent Teacher Conferences at Blue Ridge(staff and board information booth and flyer)

  • Flyer (English and Spanish)

Oct 15, 2019: Finalize Proposal and Transition Support


WALLA WALLA PUBLIC SCHOOLS • 364 South Park St. • Walla Walla, WA 99362 • Phone: 509-527-3000 • Fax: 509.529.7713

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