Opinion

Central Kitsap School District leaders on cusp of huge mistake

District leaders could be on the verge of making a huge mistake.

Last night the outgoing superintendent made a recommendation to the school board to remove options that include reducing the high-school programs to two from the current three, those being Central Kitsap High School, Olympic High School and Klahowya Secondary School.

What this means is the district leadership is not willing to take the bold and fiscally responsible step of right-sizing the high-school program for the benefit of all district students.

In removing the consideration of consolidating into two high-school programs, Central Kitsap will continue to see a further erosion of vibrant programs that all three high schools have built over the past two decades, most notable being the achievements and national attention that Central Kitsap High School has garnered for the past 12 years. Those will soon wither away, and at a greater cost to taxpayers.

Top-notch high-school programs rely on critical amounts of enrollment in order to keep programs vibrant. Districts benefit from running the right amount of campuses to maximize programs and achieve economies of scale.

A close look at the smaller-enrolled Klahowya Secondary School (approximately 600 high-school students) and Olympic High School (approximately 850 students) compared to Central Kitsap (approximately 1,150 students) shows significantly fewer course sections and fewer programs.

Were the district to continue to ignore the ever- dwindling number of students and maintain the current three campuses, soon the community will see the loss of programs such as school newspapers, theatre arts, music, Advanced Placement offerings, interventions for struggling learners, gifted support, career and technical offerings, and the list goes on.

Since enrollment has declined from 13,000 students in 1998 to a little over 10,000 students today, two elementary schools have been closed, but the secondary system has remained untouched.

It is now time to face the fact that maintaining four junior highs and three high schools is not fiscally responsible nor in the best interests of CKSD students.

The District Reconfiguration Committee has met for the past two years and has been given the direction to make 9th graders part of the high-school campuses, and not to touch the 7-12 model at Klahowya.

A late board directive in March 2013 asked the committee to consider a two high-school option, and community forums were held for input. However, a cost analysis was not provided at these forums, and predictably, staff and community gave input not to change the current high school models.

The district intends to use this “feedback” without an analysis of costs to justify a “status quo” approach to reconfiguration.

I would ask the district, just how much money could the community save through a two high-school approach? How much would the district save by pushing the reset button on what schools should be closed, and which should be remodeled or re-built? Just how much damage to successful programs will be done by wrong-sizing the district secondary system?

Look at other districts around the state with 10,000 students grades K-12 and see how many of them run three comprehensive high-school programs and you will see a consistent approach unlike Central Kitsap.

I would urge all community members to look closely at the recommendation made to the Central Kitsap School board and ask why this is in the best interest of the community.

It is fiscally irresponsible, counter to the best interests of the students in Central Kitsap, and will surely lead to further erosion of programs.

With a lame duck superintendent making decisions that an interim superintendent must live with, further reconsideration of the two high-school approach is merited; especially given that the potentially immense cost savings and benefits have been hidden from community view. Central Kitsap, we deserve better than this.

 

 

Randy Templeton

Bremerton

 

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