School options reviewed with public

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 19, 1999

From staff reports

Teachers, parents and concerned citizens gathered Thursday night at the high school auditorium where school board members presented the options for reorganizing the district.

Friday, November 19, 1999

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Teachers, parents and concerned citizens gathered Thursday night at the high school auditorium where school board members presented the options for reorganizing the district.

A reorganization plan is necessary to save money lost through declining enrollment.

A K-6 option presented by the school board would result in the closure of Brookside Middle School to students.

&uot;I don’t like to call it a closure, because the building would still be in use,&uot; said school district Superintendent David Prescott. According to the plan, Brookside would instead be used to house community education, district offices, special education and the Area Learning Center.

&uot;The only building that will be closed in the end would be the one that we’re in right now, Central High School,&uot; Prescott said. The new high school on Hammer Road is expected to be finished in October or November of next year.

Under this plan, current fifth-grade students would stay in their elementary buildings and become sixth-graders in a K-sixth elementary school. The sixth-grade program would be redeveloped in an elementary setting.

Average enrollment according to the K-sixth plan would be about 475 students. In 1996, the K-fifth buildings averaged 488 students, Prescott said.

Current sixth- and seventh-grade students would be in the seventh and eighth grade at Southwest next year in a developing middle school environment.

And, students who are now in the eighth and ninth grades who will be in ninth and tenth next year will be moved into the high school.

The overall savings to the district in this plan is estimated at $470,888 for next year.

In a second, K-fourth, fifth-sixth plan, an elementary building would be closed to students and reused for community education, district offices, special services and the ALC. Students going into the fifth and sixth grades next year would be moved to Brookside into an intermediate school setting.

Boundary lines for the three remaining elementary buildings would need to be redrawn. All K-fourth students remaining in the elementary building may also have to change schools as the district attempts to balance enrollments between buildings, the superintendent said.

Movement of students grades seventh through 12th would remain the same as in the K-6 option.

The estimated savings of this plan is $343,338.

&uot;Both estimates of the projected savings are very conservative,&uot; Prescott said.

A third option for a K-fourth, fifth-sixth compromise was presented by Kyle Marie Milliron and co-written by Carol Johnson. The plan calls for the closure of one of the elementary schools and its reuse as an administrative building. The plan attempts to protect programs already in use by the sixth grade.

&uot;We are still recommending that you strongly consider our plea to keep the sixth-grade program intact,&uot; Milliron said. &uot;We are not trying to hold onto a particular building, but we do feel we can better educate our students under this plan.&uot;

Milliron said that if four elementary buildings are kept open, there would be fewer sections in each grade each year and teachers agree that there are advantages to having more sections in each building, she said.

Sixth grade would be housed together at Lakeview along with five of the 11 sections of fifth grade. The remainder of the fifth-grade sections would be shared between Hawthorne and Halverson, Milliron said.

Teachers and members of the community spoke in turn to express their opinions and concerns.

School board member Carol Haun in closing comments thanked those who spoke at the hearing for their courteousness.

&uot;This could have been a very difficult evening and I want to thank you for making it a pleasant one,&uot; Haun said. &uot;I think that we all agree that no matter what decision we make, in the end it’s the teachers in the classroom and the support they receive that makes the difference in students’ lives.&uot;

School board member Grace Schwab pointed out that the governor promises a potential $50 more per student in state aid in the near future, which would mean an approximate $230,000 increase in revenue for the district. Gov. Ventura is expected to make an announcement regarding the possible increase Nov. 30, Schwab said.

The reorganization is only the first step in a larger scheme. Prescott said that another $500,000 may need to be cut in a second year, with an approximate total cut of nearly $900,000.

Whichever building is then used as an administrative, community education building would have to be remodeled at an estimated cost of $200,000-$210,000, depending on the facility, said facilities and transportation director Bruce Olson. That money is not reflected in the overall cost and would come out of the capital fund, he said.