The Guilford Middle School Building Project:
A Summary View
by Bill
Quirk ( wgquirk@wgquirk.com)
Last Update: January 11, 2003

Space is not efficiently used at Adams

34 primary classrooms are currently used for
all team teaching and language instruction.

There are 11 secondary classrooms [5 for special
ed, 2 computer labs, 2 to house teacher support staff, 1 for health ed,
and 1 with unknown use].

Click
here to see the Table 2 details.

Average class size is less than 21 for 640
students [for the the 34 rooms].

For the largest largest rooms [1,394 and 1,513
sq. ft.], average class size is 20.

9 of the 34 classrooms are empty for periods
4, 5, 7, and 8, and 16 of the 34 classrooms are empty for period 1, 2,
3, and 6. This is because only one teacher uses each classroom.
This arrangement made sense when teachers taught every period, but teachers
at Adam and Baldwin now have three nonteaching periods.

For more efficient space use at Adams, we
could reserve 25 of the 34 rooms for all teaching needs, leaving 9 rooms
available for other use. We could use the two largest rooms to provide
2,907 square feet of office space for the 34 displaced teachers, and we
could use another two rooms to expand the cafeteria by 1,541 square feet.
This leaves 5 rooms still available for other use.

Educational Consultants of Connecticut (ECC)
described the space in 6 school buildings.

Bill Quirk analyzed space use at Adams.
This study is not complete He recommends a full space use analysis
for all 6 buildings.

It's unlikely that Adams will be overcrowded
in the future.

The 34 primary classrooms can handle 716 with
class size of 2223. CT DOE worstcase enrollment projection (grades
78) is 716 in 201011.

01/11/03 Update:

There's a "Vote Yes" florescent
lime insert in the January 9, 2003 issue of the Guilford Currier.
It says that the current capacity of Adams is 580. Where do
they get this figure? If we just consider the 30 Adams classrooms
that are in the 616 to 957 square foot range, and we assume average class
size of 24, these 30 classrooms alone can accommodate 720 students, with
average classroom size of 756 square feet. That's 256 square
feet more than required by the State of Connecticut, and 15 classrooms
(including the 2 largest ) aren't even used.

When discussing Baldwin, this insert says that the "original building"
had a capacity of 500. Do we care about original capacity?
If we just consider the 30 Baldwin classrooms that are in the 551 to 997
square foot range, and we assume average class size of 24, these
30 classrooms alone can handle 720 students, with average classroom size
of 711 square feet. That's 211 square feet more than
required by the State of Connecticut, and 5 classrooms aren't used.
Not quite the capacity of Adams, but 50% more than the
misleading "original cacacity" figure.

It's unlikely that Guilford's schools will
be overcrowded in the future.

The October 30, 2002 Town of Guilford Build Out Study has been incorrectly
used to promote fears of future school overcrowding. Using 5 basic
assumptions, this study concluded there are 2,286 potential house building
lots in Guilford. It said that all lots will be used in 20
years, if lots are used at the rate of 116 per year. But this just
tells us that 2,286 divided by 116 is about 20.

We're interested in predicting schoolage population change.
This is a complex function of many variables. Available building
lots isn't a key variable. Consider the fact that at least 2,000
more building lots were available in 1978, but the seven Guilford
school buildings now house 311 fewer students than they accommodated in
1978. The total number of students was 4,227 in 1978.
Now it's 3,916.

Actual build out, over the next 20 years, is another complex function of
many variables. Migration trends are key, but there are other factors.
For example, as lots continue to be used, the remaining available lots
become less and less desirable. The Build Out Study made no attempt
to predict actual build out! It never mentions anticipated population
changes.

As new homes are built, who will buy them? The Build Out Study offers
no information about the type of home buyer we should expect over the next
20 years. It is expected that we will have a slight overall
increase in Guilford's population over the next 15 years, but this is because
of a projected increase in senior citizens. A slight population
decrease is actually expected for the age 5 to 19 group.

The most recent population projections from
the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management predict a
Guilford population decrease of 686 for the age 5 to 19 age range for the
period 2000 to 2015. The projected decrease for the 10 to 14
age range is 313 for the same 15 year period.

According to a major study by Northeastern University's Center for Labor
Market Studies, Connecticut experienced a significant outmigration
during the decade of the 1990's. This outmigration reduced
the supply of young and welleducated workers. Since 1990, all population
growth in Connecticut is due to foreign immigration. A high fraction
of these new foreign immigrants are undocumented and not likely to settle
in Guilford.

Finally, parents of school age children will
likely choose Madison (best in the state for academics).

There's another dimension to the space
utilization problem. We're not taking advantage of space currently
available in the elementary school buildings.

For example, if we return to the pre1988
Guilford model, Adams and Baldwin will again be grades 68 middle schools,
and Cox, Jones, Lakes, and Leete will again handle grade 5.
Purported capacity problems will then vanish, because current 10year enrollment
projections predict worstcase totals of 1,036 for grades 68 and 1,823
for grades K5. But Adams and Baldwin currently handle 1,270, and
the four elementary buildings accommodated 1,854 as K5 schools in 1978,
and we've added capacity since that time. ECC says that
the capacity is 1,884 for the four elementary buildings.

Research shows that each school building transition
disrupts the social structure in which learning takes place, thereby lowering
achievement and participation for many students. The first
transition is particularly difficult. By returning to the more
traditional gradespan model, we eliminate one building transition and
wisely delay the first transition by one year. To avoid additional
transitions, we should redistrict gradually over six years, as we work
to balance the load for the four elementary school buildings.

What will the BOE’s project cost?

The base price keeps changing. We don’t
know what we can realistically expect for state reimbursement. We
don’t know what it will cost to solve the difficult problem of access from
Route 77, and we don’t know the 20year cost of bonding for either the
base project or the renovation of Adams.

Future maintenance and renovation of Adams
is a major hidden cost

The annual base maintenance cost is currently
$183,000.

The annual cost for maintenance employees
has not yet been stated.

The cost to renovate Adams for future use
has not yet been stated.

What about the educational merits of the
BOE’s project?

It’s fundamentally about an imagined ideal
environment for the latest fad, isolating a team of 5 teachers and 100
(or less) students in a “pod” of 5 classrooms.

Recall that we paid the price for the last
fad, open classrooms, when we were forced to build dividing walls at Cox
and Adams. Pods are the logical opposite of open classrooms.
Will we eventually want to escape from the inflexibility of pods and remove
walls?

We’ve already isolated students in narrow
2year grade spans, with Baldwin for grades 56 and Adams for grades 78.
Now we are to believe that it’s a good idea to isolate students of the
same age in classroom pods, further removing then from the orienting social
context. But there’s no research showing that team teaching
in pods leads to an improvement in educational outcomes. There may
be associated negative results, because weak teachers benefit the most
from such maximum isolation. As currently structured, a sixth
grade math teacher doesn’t have to face the 8th grade math teacher who
wants to know why students don’t know how to add fractions.

Let's recognize that we have a serious
problem with educational outcomes

Click
here to see Table 1. It shows how Guilford ranked on the math
and science portions of the 2002 CAPT test. We’re 15th out of 17, down
with 4 school districts that have more to contend with, when we consider
the Table1A details of their demographics. Madison, also in our demographic
group, ranked first in the state for science and third in the state for
math.

We're not fooled by comparisons of Guilford
test scores to statewide averages.

Let's focus on improving instruction

Many have spoken eloquently about the need
to invest in teacher training and student materials. For example,
the mathematics curriculum revision committee recently published a draft
summary of the revised K8 mathematics curriculum for Guilford public schools.
This is an excellent document! Let’s invest for the optimal
implementation of this kind of curriculum, not drain funds away for unnecessary
construction.

01/10/03 Update: Here's a bit
of edulogic to ponder. The following quote is from the "Are we building
a new school and not buying new books?" section of the florescent
lime insert in the January 9, 2003 issue of the Guilford Currier.

"The funding source for books and new school
construction are totally different. New books are purchased with
General Fund Dollars and included in the annual budget. School construction
is bonded over many years and is not part of the school budget."
Don't you love it?
If none of this gives you a compelling reason
to reject the BOE’s expensive proposal, please vote to reject selfish thinking
that ignores today’s difficult financial conditions and the plight of those
on fixed incomes, or vote to reject the antidebate attitude we’ve recently
witnessed, or vote to preserve Adams as a treasured landmark school building,
beautifully located along the key entrance to the Guilford Town Green.
Click here
for Bill Quirk Replies to the Guilford
Board of Education
Click
here for Bill Quirk
Responds to First Selectman, Carl A. Balestracci, Jr.
Click here
for the Guilford CT Public Education
Home Page
Copyright 2003 William G. Quirk, Ph.D.
The reader is invited to print and/or copy this paper.