Proposals have been made; plans have been studied; financial impacts have been explored, and parents have been heard. Now, the Ladue Board of Education is facing a decision on how the school district will utilize the building for needed new classroom space.
After hearing from a team of planners during the board’s March 28 regularly scheduled work session, the board may be ready to make a decision during its next public session on April 11. At least a decision is on the board meeting agenda, according to Susan Dielmann, district director of communications. It could be delayed, she added.
One thing is known for sure, said Dielmann. A decision on the use of the Westminster property will be made by a new board. At the April 11 meeting, Stacy Washington and Andy Bresler will take their seats as new directors while Donna Smith, board vice president, and Bob Glik, board treasurer, will depart as their terms expire, said Dielmann. State laws allow municipalities to avoid the cost of holding an election if the number of candidates is equal to the number of vacant seats.
Dielmann said the current board wanted to make the Westminster decision before the new board is configured, but that did not occur.
To accommodate student growth and avoid crowded classrooms, the district is considering grade re-alignment options that involve utilization of the Westminster building now owned by the district at 10900 Ladue Rd. and scheduled to become available for district use in a couple of years. Westminster is moving to a new campus in Town and Country next fall.
The board is considering four options: creation of two unequal-sized middle schools for grades 5-8, creation of a temporary 5th grade center that would then transition into one of two equal-sized middle schools, development of a single optional school for kindergarten through grade 8, and an option encouraged by some parents: using Westminster for grades 5-6 and using the existing Ladue Middle School for grades 7-8, or vice versa.
Although the board spent more time at its meeting discussing the so-called 5/6 – 7/8 option involving Westminster and the middle school, Jason L. Buckner, assistant superintendent for business and finance, gave the board his personal recommendation: development of a temporary 5th grade center at Westminster.
“The 5th grade center does not handcuff the district,” said Buckner, who sits on the district’s facility planning committee and who is responsible for cost estimates of the various Westminster options.
Buckner explained that the 5th grade center option would give the district the flexibility to transition Westminster to most any configuration as needed.
However, Buckner also told the board that the proposed new K-8 school “would be the easiest to implement”, and, added board member Ken Smith, perhaps the least expensive in the long run.
Board members said little to indicate that they are approaching a consensus on the matter.
“Why not do something that will keep our options open?” asked board member Jeff Kopolow.
“How much is this going to cost us going forward?” asked Ken Smith.
Donna Smith suggested yet another configuration option that Buckner said would provide little flexibility for the district. Other board members observed that the board is considering a major facilities matter while a district master plan is pending.
One parent asked the board to make a decision based on academics, not finances.
“My concern is that the cost is driving the academics,” said Sharon Buchanan.