The Beaumont Unified School District held a special study session last Saturday to discuss its options regarding year-round schools, building new schools and possibly returning San Gorgonio Middle School to a high school within the next five years.
The three-hour meeting included Superintendent Terrence Davis, the school board, assistant superintendents and principals.
Approximately 60 people attended the study session, with a few parents/teachers expressing concerns about year-round elementary school during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Tim Chou, a teacher in the Beaumont Unified School District for the past 12 years, currently teaches sixth-grade at Brookside Elementary School. He said that a year-round school schedules poses problems for elementary school parents who would have to deal with three months on, one month off.
If children have a month off from school, that means parents have to make arrangements for child care.
“Typically, child care is hard to get,” Chou said.
Amy Downer has two children in the Beaumont school district – a daughter at Mountain View Middle School and a son at Beaumont High School. She is concerned about her daughter’s transition to ninth grade – in a few years.
A lot of their social skills are developed between sixth and eighth grade and the trustees and administrators talked about whether ninth-graders should be with the younger students or the high school students or have a campus all to themselves.
Davis said that Saturday’s session was discussion only – no action was being taken.
Facilities Director Mike Sattley led the special session, giving the audience an idea of the history and background of the topics that have been discussed.
The school district is faced with increased capacity size at existing school sites and building a new K-8 school.
To build a new high school would cost $200 million, which is not feasible in today’s market, Sattley said.
School board member Steven Hovey asked Sattley how long it would take before they could build a new high school. Sattley said it would be at least five years. For an elementary school, it would be about three years.
“Our high school classes are smaller this year than last year,” Sattley said.
Most school districts in Riverside county are declining as far as enrollment and Beaumont is growing in its number of students, Sattley said.
Among the district’s major developments: Summerwind II, in the western portion of Beaumont. The property needs grading, Sattley said. On the eastern portion are the communities of Sundance, Starlight and a new one called Atwell.
A middle college high school is being considered in the district. There would be a partnership with Mount San Jacinto College on the Banning campus.
Ebon Brown, director of the College and Career Readiness program for the district, said students with GPA’s of 2.0 to 3.0 would be eligible for the program. Approximately 125 students would be moved from the Beaumont High School campus to the middle college and earn 30 to 60 college credits.
Penni Harbauer, assistant superintendent for Business Services, said that the average number of high school students in Riverside County is 2,400; Beaumont High School is above that number, she said.
This year, the school district grew by 51 high school students, Harbauer said.
The trustees wondered about the proximity of a middle college high school to surrounding schools, especially if the student is attending another school in the district.
“One of the advantages is our schools are close together,” Sattley said.
The school board considered Mountain View Middle School as the 9th grade campus.
Jesus Jimenez, principal of Beaumont High School, said that proximity helps for the students. Ninth graders attending a middle school by themselves would be a better option as far as transitioning the students, said Jimenez.
School board members also discussed Glen View High School and about clearing up misconceptions about the school’s purpose. Board member Janelle Poulter said that parents often don’t understand what an alternative high school is and there is a fear about their children attending Glen View High School so they can earn their diploma.
Poulter expressed her concerns.. “You need a diploma and we want you to get one and you’re worth it,” she said.
Brookside Elementary Principal Michael Griffin said one of the problems with a ninth-grade only campus is that every year, there is a new set of students.
Board member Susie Lara also pointed out that ninth-grade only students most likely participate in programs on the high school campus. Lara questioned how they will be transported to a separate campus. Parents may not always have the time or resources to make that happen, she said.
Jimenez said that the school district would have to coordinate the transporting of students from campus to campus.
Tournament Hills Elementary Principal Callie Beitler said that many of their parents have concerns about child care.
If school schedules change to year-round, then there are community resources that can help with child care, but there are impacts on school facilities as well.
Board member Brian Sylva said that even if the school district added one track to the schedule, that would double the amount of seats.
Sattley said he didn’t want anyone to worry about these issues just yet.
“This is not happening next year,” Sattley said. “We have time to flush this through.”
Lara wanted to know how year-round schools impact a child’s learning.
Sylva also wondered about energy operations at the schools and whether parents can transfer their children to another school if they don’t want them on a year-round track.
Tony Knapp, assistant superintendent of instructional support services, said it would depend on the capacity of the sites and how many students a school can hold. It wouldn’t make sense to overload one school while another one has less students, Knapp said.
Shawn Mitchell, assistant superintendent for human resources, said that the former Chavez Elementary School was a year-round school and that Chavez was always full.
Sattley spoke about property space and that Beaumont High School sits on 96 acres. A typical high school has 40 to 60 acres.
Superintendent Davis said that the board and the district have several things to consider when looking at building new schools.
One is the availability of land; another is the cost of building a school.
Currently, the school district has a budget of available funds totaling $40 million.
It is possible to turn San Gorgonio Middle School into a high school campus again because it was the site of Beaumont High School until the new campus opened on Beaumont Avenue and Cherry Valley Boulevard.
At the end of the three-hour meeting, Davis asked the board about their recommendations.
Poulter said that she would like to see a middle school for seventh and eighth grade middle school. Sixth grade would remain with the elementary schools. Ninth grade could have their own campus and so would the high school.
Trustee David Sanchez said he would be in favor of returning San Gorgonio Middle School to a high school campus and that an elementary site could be year-round.
Sylva agreed with Sanchez about San Gorgonio becoming a high school again, but wondered about the lack of parking at that campus. He also would be in favor of a year-round school.
Lara said that a year-round school for K-6 could work. Summerwind is being planned for K-8 over by Tournament Hills. Lara wasn’t sure if the school district should spend money to re-configure San Gorgonio into a high school.
Davis said that it would cost $7 million to modernize San Gorgonio Middle School. Poulter said that, in two years, the cost could rise to $12 million.
Davis said that the board covered a lot of subjects, including property acquisition, multi year-round schools and K-6 schools.
He said that the school district will get input from the community and then bring that back to the board. The 20/21 and 21/22 school years are pivotal years for the Beaumont school district, said Davis.
Staff writer Julie Farren may be reached at email@example.com.