Thursday, August 16, 2007

Elmbrook Committee Finds the Brass Tacks and Carts for Teachers

A committee reviewing the renovation/expansion proposals for the Elmbrook high school buildings is finding all sorts of ways to reduce the costs.

Superintendent Matt Gibson argued in favor of keeping the district's plan to increase classroom sizes from about 750 square feet to 825 square feet. But he said the district may have planned for too many teacher and student support spaces - rooms for individualized instruction or planning - which could be reduced to save money.

Are there no unused classrooms available at any time during the day? Zero?

Brookfield Central would have had a 202,415-square-foot addition, and Brookfield East a 133,316-square-foot addition. Central's addition was larger because officials said it had less space suitable for remodeling and more area to be demolished.

Co-chairman Jerry Theder questioned the decision to demolish. The district's architect said that the razed area would have required keeping the existing inefficient, noisy mechanical systems and having inadequate natural lighting, among other problems.

Well, maybe not exactly 'replacement' of utterly awful ante-Deluvian systems:

The district wanted the remodeled areas to resemble the newly built areas as much as possible.

Uh huh. Sure wouldn't want to handicap the students by putting them in an OLD classroom.

A fellow with some common sense speaks up:

Resident Richard Boemer challenged that assumption, saying, "As a taxpayer, I'm satisfied with the Cadillac and the Chevy in the same garage."

Then there's this square-feet-per-student thing:

Team member Roger Johnson repeated his concern that the Elmbrook plan was over-sized, given existing enrollment of about 1,400 per high school.

He compared it to Fond du Lac High School, which the team toured. Fond du Lac is about 400,000 square feet for 2,400 students, compared to the approximately 360,000 square feet proposed by Elmbrook for 1,450 students.

Meaning that the Elmbrook proposal would be 50% more space/student than Fond du Lac. That's a lot of space to heat, cool, and light up, considering that energy ain't getting cheaper.

Finally, there's this peculiar item:

The team talked about whether Elmbrook needed to keep a plan to build the schools so that every teacher would have his or her own classroom rather than traveling between rooms on carts.

Why do the teachers 'travel on carts'? Can't they use their feet? Are these carts electric- or gas-fired? Why just the teachers? What about administrators? Students? Visiting parents?


Brother James said...

I think the carts they're referring to are the ones that you push from room to room, that contain all your books, materials, handouts, and homework assignments. 'Tis a nomadic life to be sure, where the teacher's desk in the classroom is a way station and not home base.

Dad29 said...

Jimbob, my man--the quotation I used was direct.

Thus, the reporter relates that "the teachers travel...on carts."

Nothing whatsoever about all that OTHER stuff you mention.

So are you telling me that there are TWO carts--one for the teacher and one for the stuff?

Anonymous said...

No matter how good we teachers have things, I can promise you that we're not riding around on motorized carts. "Traveling on a cart" is just a saying, meaning all of your materials that would normally be kept within a classroom need to be kept "on" the cart.

I traveled "on a cart" the first year I taught seventh grade, and I can sympathize with anyone who wouldn't want to continue doing that.

One of the biggest problems I encountered with traveling from room to room was that it wasn't always guaranteed that I'd be in the new room before the kids were. A classroom full of 12-13 year olds without supervision for any amount of time is a bad idea. The same probably holds true for high school age kids.

Another problem was that one of my 7th grade classes was held in the 6th grade wing during 6th grade study hall, so if we had any group work, the other teachers complained about the noise interfering with their kids' concentration.

There are lots of other problems, such as losing materials more easily, having to teach around the teacher whose classroom you're using, trying to keep the kids focused on what you're teaching rather than what the other adults in the room are doing, etc. Overall, it's not an ideal teaching situation.

I don't know the situation specific to Elmbrook, but I'd think having more classrooms that are smaller is a better way to save money than cutting the number of classrooms; however, I'm not sure why teachers need "planning rooms" if the district budgeted for enough classrooms.

From reading the article, it sounds like they could save a lot of money if they didn't have to demolish existing parts of the school. "Inadequate natural lighting" sounds like a weak excuse to spend a significant amount of money demolishing and rebuilding. Natural lighting often means windows, which tend to become a distraction.

My point is that I'd focus on other ways to reduce costs rather than forcing teachers to move room to room.

Now, if they really were budgeting for teachers to have little go-carts to travel around in, that would be something!