Rossford delays clustering of grades
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 10:12
ROSSFORD - The Board of Education Tuesday voted unanimously to wait until August, 2014 to implement grade cluster buildings in the district.
The plan presented at a special meeting of the board would have all the district's pre-kindergarten through second graders at Glenwood Elementary, all third, fourth and fifth graders at Eagle Point, and sixth graders at the junior high.
The meeting was held to seek public comment, not so much on the plan as the timing. The comments from the crowd of about 140 were almost all in favor of waiting until 2014 instead of going ahead with the plan this August.
The discussion comes as the district is engaged in an intense effort to address its building needs by either constructing new schools or renovating its aging structures.
The plan was put forth both to save money by closing a school, and thereby reducing the number of teachers and other staff needed, said interim Superintendent Bill McFarland.
The plan is also intended to maintain and improve the quality of education in the district and help it deal with increasing state mandates including a new teacher evaluation system.
McFarland said at the beginning of the meeting that implementing grade configuration for August would be "a huge undertaking." It would require developing new bus routes moving teachers and classrooms into new buildings.
Because class sizes could be better balanced, two fewer teachers would be needed. Those cuts could be done by attrition, McFarland said.
Classified staff would be affected. "More than likely we would be able to precede with a reduced number of staff," he said.
The superintendent did not have an estimate on how much grade configuration would save.
Board member Jackie Brown noted the district must find $1.4 million in savings in each of the next few years because of reductions in state funding and a declining revenue from local property taxes.
Also, McFarland noted Indian Hills, which would not be used for a school, is the only district building that's handicapped accessible.
Resident Annette Carulli questioned why the district would move its youngest students to a building considered unsafe because it is right on Ohio 795.
She said the district should wait to formulate a long-term building plan before spending money on buildings it may well bulldoze in a few years.
Board member Ken Sutter said that it would be at least a couple years after residents approved funding for a construction project that any buildings would open.
David Misko, who is part of a broad effort to study the district's facilities, said that a consultant found Glenwood Elementary had the most structural and mechanical problems.
Christie Schimming said that her children attended Glenwood. "I never once questioned my kids' safety."
Misko did say grade configuration could have a lot to offer students.
Another resident Larry Shaw said more research was needed before making such a major change.
"We have no solid numbers," he said. Even if Indian Hills was left vacant it would need some maintenance.
Board President Dawn Burks noted later that administrators were considering consolidating administration offices in the school.
Erin Crawford, a resident who is part of the facilities study effort, said that the studies have found "the benefits of clustering is mixed."
Also, she said, whenever students move from one school to another they fall behind academically.
Amy Adams worried that if this move went through it would lessen public support for any plan to build new schools. While saying she has been happy with education provided her children, she added "our facilities are embarrassing."
"I think our teachers deserve better," she said. "I think our children deserve better."
High school English teacher Michael Krieger said the junior high is not ready to handle the changes. "When would sixth graders have lunch? Right after they get off the bus?"
He also questioned the lack of handicapped accessibility. The buildings need to be accessible not only for students, but also their families and the general public, he said.
Board members all supported the concept of grade configuration, but were uncertain it could be done by August.
"I want this transition to be smooth," Sutter said.
"What's the cost saving going to be?" Doug Miller asked. "That's the big unknown component."
Board member Bev Koch said the reason her family moved back to Rossford was so her child could walk to Eagle Point Elementary just as she had.
Grade clustering would change that, but that didn't shake Koch's support for the plan.
All the thought and planning going into grade configuration, she said, "makes me feel comfortable that my child is in good hands, and so are yours."