The Colorado Springs School District 11 board received another round of pleas from parents, teachers, students and alumni Wednesday to reconsider the district’s plan to shut down Wasson High School and turn the under-used building into a campus of alternative education programs.
A sedate, standing-room-only crowd gathered at the D-11 administration building and took turns addressing the board with a list of reasons why the school should remain open: Wasson students are doing better under a relatively new program that needs more time to show even greater gains; the disruption of moving to a new school will hurt special ed students and could force families to flee the district, further eroding its enrollment; some students are more likely to thrive in a smaller high school.
“I’m dyslexic,” a Wasson freshman told the board in a quiet but steady voice. “I don’t do well with big crowds. It will hurt me academically.”
A group of Wasson teachers presented an eleventh-hour plan to the board that would still bring the district’s alternative programs to the campus but retain the Wasson program. It would solve the underutilization problem while keeping Wasson students in a familiar environment — a win-win, they said. And it would continue an academic program, TAP, that is showing results but has only been in effect for about 18 months.
“It takes three to seven years to see a turnaround,” teacher Sarah Krider said. “We’ve already seen the dropout rate fall … and the graduation rate increase. Absenteeism is down. There’s increased buy-in.”
After public comments, the administration presented its final plan for closures, which mirrored the preliminary plan presented late last year.
But board member Bob Null also presented an alternative to the administration’s plan, which he said would run counter to almost every goal D-11 has set for itself. He pointed out one goal that calls for the district to “enhance a culture of constant innovation.”
“I suggest we’re killing innovation,” he said.
Null said he wants to keep Wasson open, as well as Lincoln Elementary School, 2727 N. Cascade Ave., another school targeted for closure. He also favors keeping the small Bijou School out of the mix of alternative schools to be moved to Wasson — a suggestion likely welcomed by the staff, students and former students who told the board that the school is one place that gives teens a welcoming place to get an education when they don’t feel comfortable in a traditional high school setting with hundreds of kids.
The Bijou School is housed in the former Whittier Elementary School, 2904 W. Kiowa St.
One woman read a statement from a Bijou senior who used to go to Cheyenne Mountain High School but switched because she gets anxious around crowds.
“My concern is that people come to an alternative school to get away from traditional settings,” the student said in her statement.
D-11 Superintendent Nicholas Gledich explained the lengthy, intricate process of how the decision was made to close Wasson, as well as Lincoln and Bates Elementary School, 702 Cragmor Road, and to consolidate the alternative programs. A working committee found six “flags,” compared with two flags for Mitchell High School, that made it a prime target for closure, he noted.
Several board members lauded the work that went into the study.
“I have to look at the painstaking process that the staff went through,” said Al Loma. “No matter what’s done, people are going to be angry.”
The board is expected to vote on the recommendations Feb. 6.