Facts about the closing of Briar Crest Elementary School
The Pattonville Board of Education on Oct. 9, 2012, approved a proposal to close Briar Crest Elementary at the end of this school year. The proposal was 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. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about these changes.
When will Briar Crest close?
Briar Crest will close at end of the current (2012-2013) school year.
Why is closing Briar Crest necessary?
Briar Crest is a small neighborhood elementary school with a caring, cohesive staff focused on meeting the learning needs of each student. 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. In fact, the value of property in the district has dropped to the level it was more than a decade ago (2003 levels). During the last six years, expenses in the operating budget have grown less than 1 percent on average per year. This slow growth is due to extensive cost-cutting measures Pattonville took during that time frame. Careful planning and budget reduction efforts to date have enabled us to weather the economic storm for nearly six years, but the current economic downturn is enduring much longer than anticipated, and it is unknown when conditions will improve. Maintaining our current budget will be impossible without increased revenues, further cuts or both. Pattonville just finished $3 million in budget reductions. In the current school year (2012-2013), the district is working to reduce another $2.4 milllion. Pattonville is also 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.
Over the last decade, Pattonville lost student enrollment due to the airport expansion buyout and the district’s decision to phase out its 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. Briar Crest’s enrollment in 2011 was 225. This is well below the average enrollment of elementary schools in surrounding districts (Ladue, Parkway, Ritenour and Hazelwood), which is 412. See below for a history of Briar Crest’s enrollment and a comparison of enrollment at Pattonville elementary schools from 2000 to the present, which demonstrates the capacity available at other schools.
*Notes: Drummond opened in 2002 with an initial enrollment of 553. The building was constructed with a capacity of 650 students. At the time of redistricting, 2012 enrollment numbers were not final. The official 2012 enrollment count was taken Sept. 26, 2012 and is shown in parentheses. Redistricted enrollment is based on unofficial enrollment counts for 2012.
Parent meetings at the affected schools were held to explain these changes and give families an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments. The same information was shared at all meetings. Principals and Learning Center (district) administrators attended the meetings to help answer questions. Customized letters have also been mailed to Briar Crest and Drummond parents with specific information detailing where their children will attend school next year under the new elementary boundary changes.
Closing a school and changing attendance boundaries is a difficult decision because of the impact it has on families and staff members; however, Pattonville’s current economic challenges and the capacity at other Pattonville schools make this change necessary.
Will the school be closed permanently?
Long-term plans are undecided at this time, but for the foreseeable future, it will remain closed.
Will Briar Crest be sold?
Pattonville will retain ownership of the building in case it needs it for enrollment purposes in the future.
What is the savings cost for the district if Briar Crest closes?
Pattonville estimates it will save $700,000 annually when Briar Crest closes. The savings come from reduced staffing needs, utilities, certain maintenance items and services/contractual areas.
Where will Briar Crest students go?
In order to make the most efficient use of staff, save salary costs and maximize elementary building use in the district, Pattonville officials have developed a redistricting solution that will 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. The changes will be 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.
To download a link to a PDF showing a map of the new boundaries, click the link below. The file may take a few moments to download (file size 9.1 mb).
To download a link to a street directory showing where students will attend school by address next school year (2013-2014), click the link below.
How will this impact the middle school attendance areas?
The changes in the elementary attendance areas will not impact the current middle school attendance boundaries in the 2013-2014 school 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. The current attendance areas have the existing Briar Crest, Drummond and Rose Acres elementary attendance areas attending Holman for middle school, and the current Bridgeway, Parkwood and Willow Brook attendance areas attending Pattonville Heights.
Will there be exceptions that allow students to remain at their current schools once the attendance boundaries have changed (i.e., a fourth-grader being able to continue to attend Drummond for fifth-grade)?
Families of students who wish to remain at their current school instead of transitioning to their new school may apply to remain at their current school under Pattonville’s exceptional attendance policy, which governs transfers based on space availability and students’ good citizenship. If approved for exceptional attendance, the parents would have to provide their own transportation to school. As it does every year, Pattonville will closely monitor enrollment and staffing for the 2013-2014 school year and will not approve any exceptional attendance applications that would result in increased staffing needs.
What will happen to the staff at Briar Crest?
Pattonville’s Human Resources Department and the building principals are working with impacted staff members to help them through the reorganization process. Per policy GCI-R, certified staff who are not on a one-year contract that are required to transfer due to the closing of a school will have the opportunity to transfer to open positions for which they are certified.
Per policy GDPA-R, support staff holding eliminated positions will be placed in a position in any job category for which they are qualified. If there are not enough available positions resulting from retirements or attrition (voluntary resignations) the district’s “Reduction in Force” procedures may be utilized (Policies GDPA and GDPA-R). We believe that the impact of a support staff “Reduction in Force” due to the closing of Briar Crest will be minimal and may be completely avoided based on retirements or attrition.
What happens if enrollment in Pattonville schools begins to increase?
Pattonville pays close attention to its annual enrollment and the factors that impact changes in enrollment. The district will continue to carefully monitor enrollment. While Pattonville officials expect enrollment to remain manageable under the new changes (based on previous demographic studies and other measures used to predict enrollment), redistricting may need to occur again in the future if enrollment growth places a strain on the learning needs of individual schools. For example, growth has occurred over the last few years in the Willow Brook Elementary area, placing that school’s enrollment at capacity. Any future growth may necessitate moving a section of that attendance area into the Parkwood or Bridgeway attendance areas. More capacity may also be available in the future at Rose Acres Elementary, which currently has 45 students attending classes there from various attendance areas in Pattonville under the “public school choice” (PSC) provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Because Missouri received a waiver from the NCLB requirements, districts are no longer required to offer public school choice, however students who were attending a school under the PSC provisions can stay in their new school as long as parents provide transportation. As the public school choice students at Rose Acres progress through their elementary years and leave Rose Acres, more capacity may be available to shift enrollment into that attendance area as needed.
Will further redistricting be necessary if funding for the district’s operational budget does not rebound in the near future?
Pattonville will make every effort to minimize the amount of change and movement required of our students, families and staff in the future. However, if Pattonville’s funding continues to drop significantly or revenue does not increase, more restructuring may be necessary. School improvement teams will work this year to design their schools to meet higher state and national learning standards and also look at ways to save costs. Their work may dictate future changes and restructuring. Whatever the outcome, any change made will be focused on ensuring students are proficient learners and cost-savings are achieved.
What happens to the furniture, books and supplies at Briar Crest?
Furniture, books and other supplies can be distributed to other schools or warehoused for later use.
How will the district ensure the property is maintained, secured and kept in good condition while vacant?
Pattonville will continue to maintain the grounds, as well as security cameras and alarm systems/services. Pattonville also owns the adjacent house, and staff members are on location, working there throughout the week, providing an ongoing staff presence in the area.
Will the building be rented out for any purpose?
The facility could be rented out to help generate revenue for the district. Currently a church rents Briar Crest for use on Sundays.
What will be done to help Briar Crest students transition into their new schools?
Pattonville and the impacted schools will work on transition plans to ensure students who are redistricted are welcomed and acclimated to their new school homes. In addition, the Drummond and Briar Crest School Improvement Teams (made up of half parents/half staff) will work together to chart the path for Drummond as it moves forward receiving its new students next school year.
Pattonville recently completed a number of bond issue projects district-wide, including a new stadium. How do these projects impact the district’s operational budget?
Two local tax sources provide Pattonville its local funding. Bond issue projects completed in Pattonville are funded by the district’s debt service levy, which, by law, cannot be used to support the district’s operating budget. A separate operating levy provides funding support for the operations budget (for items such as salaries, textbooks and equipment). The financial challenges Pattonville has been addressing over the last six years and will continue to address this year are all related to the operating budget. The debt service fund enables us to build and maintain great facilities for our students and community without causing a financial burden on our day-to-day operational budget. In fact, bond issues often help alleviate the need to spend operating budget funds on facility repairs and improvements.
Funding for another major project this year – the iLearn digital learning initiative at Pattonville High School – also comes from a targeted funding source that’s been in the works for more than a decade. Since 2000, Pattonville set aside money in a technology savings fund to replace outdated technology district-wide. Pattonville High School already had a student-to-computer ratio of nearly one computer for every student, and these computers were due for replacement this year using this technology savings fund. Pattonville felt this was an important opportunity to use those replacement funds to support student learning by allowing students to use the replacement computers both during the school day and at home. Pattonville could have chosen not to replace the computers, but that would have provided a one-year fix and would have done little to help the district’s long-term financial outlook. The result would be a district without access to resources Pattonville staff and students need to be competitive in the 21st century. In addition, Pattonville already has a large investment in technology. In the past, those resources sat unused at the end of the school day when students went home. With iLearn, students can take those resources home - much like a textbook - and keep using them even after school has ended.