|Pattonville recommends closing Briar Crest, parent meetings set|
|Friday, September 14, 2012|
The Pattonville Board of Education on Sept. 25 will review a proposal to close Briar Crest Elementary at the end of this school year. The proposal is being made due to prolonged economic challenges facing the Pattonville School District and extra capacity available in the district's other elementary schools. Under the proposal, most of the Briar Crest attendance area will be absorbed by Drummond Elementary, with a smaller portion going to Bridgeway Elementary. This change will require moving some of the current Drummond attendance areas to Bridgeway and Parkwood elementary schools. The board will review these recommendations on Sept. 25 and vote on the proposal at the Oct. 9 board meeting. For more facts about the proposed closing of Briar Crest, click here.
Why is Pattonville making this recommendation? Briar Crest is a small neighborhood elementary with slightly more than 200 students enrolled. For many years, Pattonville has been able to support schools with small enrollments, but the realities of the economic downturn have made this impossible to continue. Pattonville’s had no increase in revenue since 2007 due to declining property values, reductions in state funding and continued tax appeals by large commercial property owners. During the last six years, expenses in the operating budget have grown less than 1 percent on average per year due to extensive cost-cutting measures Pattonville took during that time frame. Pattonville's planning and cost-cutting efforts have enabled the district to weather the economic storm for nearly six years, but the current economic downturn is enduring much longer than anticipated. Maintaining Pattonville's current budget will be impossible without increased revenues, further cuts or both. Pattonville just finished $3 million in budget reductions and is in the planning stages to address an additional $4 to $5 million shortfall in the operating budget in the next several years. If Pattonville does not take action now to further cut its operating budget, its reserves will be depleted by the end of the 2016-2017 school year. Pattonville estimates it will save $700,000 annually when Briar Crest closes through reduced staffing needs, utilities, maintenance items and services/contractual areas.
"Closing a school and changing attendance boundaries is a difficult decision because of the impact it has on our families," said Dr. Mike Fulton, superintendnet. "The reality is our current economic challenges and the capacity we have at our other schools make this change necessary. In the months ahead, we’ll work diligently with our school communities to plan the learning at our newly reorganized schools so that the needs of our students remain our first and most important priorities."
Over the last decade, Pattonville lost student enrollment due to the airport expansion buyout and the phase-out of Pattonville’s involvement in the voluntary desegregation program. A smaller student enrollment means Pattonville has capacity at its other elementary schools to educate students who would normally attend Briar Crest. In order to make the most efficient use of staff, save salary costs and maximize elementary building use in the district, Pattonville officials developed a redistricting solution to send most of the current Briar Crest attendance area to Drummond Elementary and a smaller portion to Bridgeway Elementary. This move will require moving some of the current Drummond attendance areas into Bridgeway Elementary and Parkwood Elementary. Those changes are as follows:
The middle school attendance boundaries will remain unchanged for next year. Students in the current attendance areas for Holman will go to Holman and those in the current attendance areas for Pattonville Heights will continue to go to Heights, regardless of the elementary changes. The middle school attendance areas will be the same for at least another year to give the middle schools’ school improvement teams time to work on redesigning their schools to meet higher student achievement standards and find cost-savings.
Parent meetings at the affected schools have been scheduled to explain these changes and give parents an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments. Briar Crest and Drummond will host parent meetings at their schools at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 17. Bridgeway, Parkwood, Holman and Pattonville Heights will host parent meetings at their schools at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 19. The same information will be shared at all meetings. Principals and Learning Center administrators will be at these meetings to help answer questions.
About Briar Crest Elementary:
Briar Crest Elementary opened in 1965 with Nelson Smith as the first principal. The school is located at 2900 Adie Road in St. Ann (unincorporated St. Louis County). A St. Ann resident suggested the name “Briar Crest” in a school-naming contest. According to Smith, the area had a street designated (but never built) behind the school property that was to be called Briar Crest.