The year Kelly and Justin Hendrickson’s son, Evan, started kindergarten at Roosevelt Elementary was a rough one.
“We really didn’t know what was going on with him,” Kelly Hendrickson said. “And the school didn’t really know how to handle him.”
Later that year, Evan was finally diagnosed with ADHD, and was enrolled in the special education program at Roosevelt.
Now, 8-year-old Evan Hendrickson is doing well in third grade. He’s found a routine, he knows the building, knows all the staff, teachers and students.
Over the years, Roosevelt has become home for them all — Justin and Kelly Hendrickson and their three children, Evan and his twin sister Abby, and their kindergartner Anna, who all attend the school on the city’s northwest side.
“It’s been a journey, but we’re at a point where he’s doing well,” Kelly Hendrickson, who also serves as Roosevelt PTA president, said. “(Roosevelt is) like a family — I couldn’t imagine a better group of teachers and staff and administrators. Everyone there is so there for our kids and helping them develop socially, emotionally, mentally ... They’re really trying to create well-rounded kids.”
But now, as the Eau Claire school district considers potentially shuttering Roosevelt Elementary and re-purposing it into a center for 4-year-old kindergarten programming, Kelly Hendrickson wonders what will happen to her son and all the progress he’s made, and the family they’ve found at Roosevelt.
“We never wanted our kids to have to switch schools,” she said, noting she and her husband moved back to Eau Claire, their hometown, before their kids started school to avoid that situation entirely. “So this is pretty upsetting that they’d be switching based on nothing of our own doing.”
The Hendricksons were among nearly 100 concerned parents who attended a district listening session Wednesday evening at DeLong Middle School that focused on how potential boundary changes would impact Roosevelt Elementary.
The Wednesday meeting started with an informational presentation given by Kim Koller, the district’s executive director of administration who serves on the school board’s Demographic Trends and Facilities Committee.
In October, the committee recommended to the board that Roosevelt be re-purposed and north side elementary school boundaries be redrawn in order to accommodate high capacities in south side elementary schools and the district’s 4K program.
Koller presented three options the committee has been considering to be implemented in the 2020-21 academic year.
The first option is to re-purpose Roosevelt into a 4K center and realign boundaries affecting Sam Davey, Northwoods, Lakeshore, Longfellow, Locust Lane and Sherman elementaries to accommodate enrollment. That option is slated to cost from $17.5 to $21 million.
The second option is to retain Roosevelt as an elementary school and expand the facility to accommodate enrollment, while coming up with another plan to address 4K needs. That plan is projected to cost of $46 to $51.9 million.
The last option is to retain Roosevelt as an elementary school and redraw all boundaries to balance enrollment throughout the district at a cost of $31.5 to $35.5 million.
Once the committee lands on a solution for the north side, building a new school on the south side would be considered by the committee as a solution to capacity and enrollment, Koller said.
But there are other factors that could impact the options currently being considered.
The school board is also considering a proposal for adding a Spanish dual immersion program at Longfellow Elementary. If that program were to be approved by the board in the coming months, the option of closing Roosevelt would be “challenging,” Koller said.
“The long-term viability of this plan is uncertain,” Koller said. “Short term, we’re confident it’s a solution.”
Koller said the committee may explore other options based on the listening sessions, and will likely seek approval from the board within the next several months.
After the presentation, parents had the chance to ask questions and express frustrations in front of the larger group.
Megan Holmen, a Roosevelt parent, asked why all the plans involving shuttering Roosevelt involved separating all the students and sending them to different schools throughout the north side, referencing when Boyd Elementary closed and all the students were sent to Flynn Elementary together.
Other parents offered alternative solutions for the committee to consider. Some questioned why the district did not provide information to them sooner.
Kristyn Kersten, another Roosevelt parent, said the district has not shown transparency about the plans.
“It’s really saddening to know what’s happening and the fact that we’ve gotten such little notice and such little information,” Kersten said ahead of the meeting. “I feel like we’re being pushed to the side and overlooked in general.”
Others questioned the equality between the city’s north and south sides.
“I feel like we’re never going to be equal this way,” one parent said, referencing plans to close Roosevelt and potentially add a school to the south side later. “I feel like we’re never going to be equal. We’re trying, but we’re not.”
The district’s listening sessions will continue on the following dates:
• 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at North High School, 1801 Piedmont Rd. Focus topic: Proposed elementary boundaries.
• 5 to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at DeLong Middle School. Focus topic: Spanish presentation.
• 4:30 to 6 p.m. March 5 at South Middle School, 2115 Mitscher Ave. Focus topic: Expansion of elementary schools.
• 5:30 to 7 p.m. March 6 at Memorial High School, 2225 Keith St. Focus topic: Supporting families through transition.
• 6:30 to 8 p.m. March 12 at Northstar Middle School, 2711 Abbe Hill Drive. Focus topic: Middle school boundaries.
• 6 to 7:30 p.m. March 14 at Northstar Middle School. Focus topic: Hmong presentation.
For more information about boundary changes and maps of proposed boundaries, visit ecasd.us/district/board-of-education/4k-elementary-enrollments.