The district is in serious money problems – and Monona has to make a serious argument to keep the school open.
No one doubts that Maywood is a wonderful school, and that its environment is a perfect for K-2 kids in this community. But budgets being what they are, the school will be on the chopping block again next year (and the year after, and the year after) if the community can’t provide a solid educational argument for keeping it open – so long as Winnequah sits half empty.
I see two arguments to put onto the table.
The first argument is that the k-2 kids benefit a great deal from being separate from the 3-5 graders. We can say that K-2 grades benefit by having a smaller, less threatening environment. One that helps them dramatically – as opposed to mixing kids K-5 at Winnequah. Overcrowding can’t be used, as K-6 will fit in Winnequah, so we have to make the argument that the K-2 kids are far better off in the Maywood environment, as opposed to being mixed with the 3-5 graders at Winnequah. Can we honestly make that argument? While the arguments are valid, sooner or later a time will come where the cost savings will be too much for the board, and the school will be shuttered.
The second argument is to increase the numbers of students at Winnequah so that it there isn’t enough room for the k-2 kids. How do we do that? Open enrollment will only bring so many – it’s not anything we can hang our hats on. The obvious answer is to get 6-8 grades back into Monona. How do we do that?
A recent study by the district showed that making Winnequah a 3-8 school would cost about $1 million to accomplish. And that doesn’t include the costs of more teachers each year. Again, is this a realistic option? We seriously doubt the district will offer up this option considering the budget crisis we will be working on for the next decade.
The district is also considering an environmental studies charter school for grades 6-8 in Monona. Kids from Monona and CG could select to attend this school. We don’t want to go into the details on this, but here’s some more info on the progress of this. Needless to say, we are several years away from this happening – and there are some steep obstacles in the way of it becoming a reality. Still, it offers some intriguing ideas.
If the community can take the lead in getting the charter school going, giving the district solid hope that it actually can be done (the obstacles include grants, setting curriculum, etc. ,etc. Money is the biggest issue (isn’t it always).
Still, as we discussed in other articles, no one is going to help out Monona except ourselves. The charter school option, even if a few years away, should be pursued. One reason is that it would offer the entire district a unique educational opportunity. A second is that it would offer Monona parents the option of keeping their kids in this community for grades 6-8.
If the charter school option can be pushed aggressively, there becomes a strong need to keep Maywood School open in it’s current state. Otherwise, you don’t want to spend $200,000 converting Winnequah over to accept the K-2 grades, and then only have to move them back to Maywood once the charter school opens in a few years. The charter school would also help out by keeping overcrowding down in Cottage Grove. The environmental studies angle would blend well with the Aldo Leopold Center – giving Monona a truly unique selling point.
So, at this time, we should all take time to learn what needs to be done to keep the charter school option on the table. Find out how you can help. By doing so, we entertain options for our kids education here in Monona.
Come this time next year, if the option of a charter school is realistic (or even semi realistic), the board will be more likely to keep Maywood open, knowing that Winnequah will become a 3-8 school within a couple of years.
We admit that the charter school is a pipe dream, but it’s in our hands to make things happen.