At a crossroads that could give rise to division, Crane School District is upholding its dedication to community and choice – two keywords from a Tuesday work session held by the governing board to discuss the proposed expansion of Gowan Science Academy to grades seven and eight.

“We are all in this field to help kids,” said Alissa Guevara, professional development coach at Gowan and one of 12 Crane community members who spoke to the board on the topic.

Appearing on the agenda at last month’s governing board meeting, the possible expansion elicited responses from both ends of the spectrum with educators, students and other Crane community members vocalizing support and/or raising concerns to the board.

According to Superintendent Laurie Doering, the expansion was proposed in response to a number of requests by district parents to expand Gowan Science Academy to a K-8 program.

“We…are being responsive to the community and what their needs are, rather than us saying, ‘let’s do this,’” Doering said.

One of the questions evoked by the possibility of expansion was whether any other Crane schools would follow Gowan on the route to adopting a K-8 model.

“We have enough of a demand for it (at Gowan) and a principal that has done a lot of research and is excited to do it,” Doering said. “This would really be like our trend setter, and if there’s enough demand (at other schools), we’ll look at doing that.”

If approved by the governing board, the expansion will begin with seventh grade in the 2020-2021 school year, followed by eighth grade and incremental additions of classrooms afforded by the move into the building currently housing Rancho Viejo Elementary School.

“I know what you’re thinking – ‘Wow, this sounds like a lot of work to create a curriculum from the ground up, learn how to make a middle school rotation work and to top it off, move to a new location,’” Gowan Principal Jamie Haines said. “But I guarantee you, Gowan Science Academy teachers are up for the challenge. Our teachers have built their curriculum over the years from the ground up – it’s all they know.”

In a survey administered by Haines in October, 95 percent of Gowan’s teachers were in support of a middle school expansion. “They are ready, and I’m excited to lead,” she said.

Middle school sports is another matter raising its own pressing questions, which Haines has thoroughly considered.

“In my mind, it’s simple,” Haines said. “If we have enough seventh and eventually eighth graders to fill the team and we have a coach, or coaches, willing to coach, then we play in middle school sports just as traditional middle schools.”

Voiced by both Haines and Doering, the rationale for expansion to seventh and eighth grades is, at its root, “all about choice.”

“It is not a judgment of one school being superior to another,” Doering said. “What we’re trying to do is offer another choice for parents.”

The board will make a decision during its regular board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10. at 5 p.m

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