School District hires strategies company

The school district has hired Cooperative Strategies, an Ohio based company specializing in financial and demographic planning for schools. According to Cooperative Strategies website, the innovative company has done extensive work in school systems around the country and internationally “serving more than 2,000 education clients.”

The total cost of the project is $45,000.

Regarding the district’s motive with the company, superintendent Dr. John Simpson said, “The company is just here to support our work to address the crowding due to enrollment.”

Edgar Road Elementary has particularly had spatial concerns. This school year, the school has added a second modular to its campus. A modular is a trailer-like learning environment, outside of the school. Each modular hold two classrooms. The district is preparing to add a third one to the school this fall.

Edgar Road is also full within the school. The former staff lounge, already fairly small, has been converted into the music room. The space was not designed to be a classroom.

Simpson said, “Schools have modified and adapted, and we’ve carved up spaces, but our projections show that we are going to continue to grow.”

Earlier this year at a WGSD Community Forum, focusing on safety and space needs, Simpson presented samples of eight various space options.

For example, class size standards, grade level configurations, elementary attendance zones, and more.

Simpson said, “We made the decision that while we could process this ourselves, we wanted to go out and see if there is a company out there with experience, more capabilities looking at the situation.”

This past summer, Dr. Simpson wrote a “Request for Proposal.” By definition, this document solicits a proposal, describing a project or issue, (in this case, spatial solutions). Potential contenders submit business proposals, providing information about systems, cost and approaches to the situation.

Cooperative Strategies was one of three companies considered.

The district created a criteria to score various factors and conducted interviews with various finalists. In the end, Cooperative Strategies emerged as the best, and least expensive option.

“We have met with them a number of times; we speak with them weekly,” said Simpson.

Cooperative Strategies will be leading upcoming sessions within the Webster Groves community. There are various sessions geared towards all age groups. For example student involvement, parent involvement, community involvement, etc. On Oct. 11, the company held a WGHS student focus group in the Central Office. The group met for almost two hours, discussing various options, outcomes and direct effects on their demographic.

Simpson said, “Ultimately, they are (the company) facilitating a process, which will include things like focus groups and forums. From their analysis of data from community feedback and such, they will develop proposals and options that will describe an option.”

In 2015, the bond did not pass. Since that point, the enrollment trend has continued to increase.

Last year, the district presented on the projected enrollment, this being a significant upward trend. Simpson said, “The primary reason was to address our (the district’s) enrollment growth.”

Also in 2015, the district addressed the spatial issue internally, not working with an outside company. “We thought another value to hiring an outside company would be having someone come in that wasn’t within the community,” said Simpson. The district wanted an alternative source, not close to the situation. It wanted a company able to process with people and help with solutions development.

Emily Stisser – Opinion Editor 

This will be Emily Stisser’s first year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her freshman year.


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