I was at the March 18 Riverside District 96 school board meeting (“D96 board won’t change flexible boundary plan,” News, April 2) where board President Cheryl Berdelle asked the question “what are you afraid of”?

I think this is an interesting question to ask and answer, and there are many answers to this question.

First off, the main thing I am “afraid of” is that this school board is apparently not planning for the continued overcrowding in District 96. In the recent school board meeting, an attendee asked a simple question: What is the number of kids at which the school board will start deliberating contingencies? Ms. Berdelle answered that “was speculation” and would not answer.

Interestingly enough, Dr. Lamberson provided the answer. District 96 plans for seven sections of kindergarten per year. This allows for up to 140 kids based on the class cap policy maximum of 20 kids per class.

If there are more than 140 kids, an eighth section is opened. Eight sections of kindergarten allow for 160 kids. According to Dr. Lamberson’s presentation, there is no more room for additional kindergarten sections after an eighth class is added. There are no available classrooms.

He also explained that adding sections is not a single-year commitment, but a six-year commitment. The question becomes, what happens when we reach 161 kindergarten registrations?

I believe it is important to discuss this now rather than mid summer when it is likely to happen. This discussion really can, and should be, how do the class cap and the flexible boundaries policy get extended in the instances of greater than 160 kids registering?

The major concern I have with not having this discussion now is that it appears the board either does not want to get input from parents who are willing and want to provide input, or even discuss it at all

What I “fear,” and another reason I am concerned, is that Ms. Berdelle and the rest of the school board seems to see active parents as adversaries and antagonists rather than advocates.

Ms. Berdelle has on several occasions threatened to shut down questions on topics which seem to make the board uncomfortable. The first example of this happened at the February board meeting with the discussion of ending the enrichment program.

She was adamant about not allowing discussion of the enrichment program in the context of overcrowding. This effectively shut down all conversation.

If I know the context under which the board was planning to eliminate the enrichment program, I would have been able to provide better input. Unfortunately, not until after the open discussion did the board discuss the reasons they wanted to eliminate the program.

A second example of this is relates to Dr. Kofron’s demographic report. The main reason why questions about the report continue to come up is tied directly to the overcrowding problem, and the refusal to discuss contingency plans for when there will be more than 160 kids enrolled.

I “fear” that Dr. Kofron’s report underestimates the number of kids enrolling not only this year, but in the next several years. The impact of this underestimating will be that without proper upfront planning, the district will be scrambling to find a solution at the last minute rather than providing a clear set of guidelines against which parents and the district can plan.

Since there really are only two options, it would be nice to know which option the board would use-expand the class cap or put in mobile classrooms.

If mobile classrooms are to be used, then where would they go, and how would they be used?

Hopefully this at least partially answers Ms. Berdelle’s question. Hopefully soon the board will start looking at active parents as an asset rather then an adversary.

Jim Raffensperger is a Riverside resident