An open letter to the United 304 Community
Hard to believe that the 2023-24 school year marks the 20th year of existence for the United CUSD 304. As with anything that reaches a second decade of life, we as a district are faced with new decisions because things that may have made sense in previous years may not make as much sense for our future.
As we address possible solutions, we find that these decisions may create change in United as we know it. Over the last few years, our district, like districts everywhere, has been faced with new and challenging obstacles. This letter is one way of communicating our efforts to combat our most pressing issue – a lack of physical space in our elementary buildings.
Over the last few years, our district has added a number of new programs to both of our elementary buildings. Additional PreK classrooms, additional special ed classrooms, and the addition of reading interventionist have all utilized classroom space that previously was flexible for our usage. Our general music curriculum has been mobile for at least 3 years now and that followed a long time elimination of stand alone elementary art curriculum. Throughout that time, enrollment numbers have continued to be steady. We have been able to take advantage of small groups and eliminate sections when possible, but there is no real reason to forecast an “optimal” section going forward. In fact, we’ve prided ourselves on being able to manage section sizes at the primary levels and, without change, that control would be terminated.
We’ve explored several solutions to address this space issue. We’ve discussed building additions at the elementary schools as well as the addition of modular classrooms on either or both elementary campuses. Obviously, both of those options require a substantial financial investment.
In avoidance of a large price tag, we considered options that, although not free, would be considerably less in cost. While the elementary schools are bursting at the seams, the junior high maintains a modest amount of flexible space, and the High School contains the largest amount of currently flexible space. Other proposals involve reorganizing our grade levels to utilize the space in the district that is readily available. One proposal included moving all of our PreK sections to the open classrooms at UHS. Another would have been to group all grade levels in common buildings – essentially becoming attendance centers. Yet another would create a 4-5 intermediate complex at UHS. Finally we studied the moving of our 7th and 8th graders to United High School along with creating a 4th, 5th, and 6th grade middle school – allowing the necessary space we need in the elementary buildings (PK-3).
Planning a future for the students of United involves us all. Therefore, the United 304 Board of Education will be holding a Town Hall meeting to discuss and further explain the problem and potential solutions before us. The Town Hall will be held at United High School on Wednesday October 11, 2023 at 6 PM. Along with the Town Hall, a series of open letters and/or explanation videos will also be shared via the district website and app as our timeline and decisions fall into place. Hope to see you there.
Jeff Whitsitt, Superintendent