Staff reduction, transportation decisions next for school board
When August rolls around, USD 348 will be operating two elementary schools, or half as many as its most of the last decade.
During the next seven months, school district officials and staff members will be planning and executing the consolidation. Some changes, such as classroom layouts, have already been planned. However, other issues such as transportation, usage of the two empty schools and which staff members will be retained will need to be resolved in a quick manner.
“I’ve already met with the principals for all four buildings and started talking about what the transition might look like,” Superintendent Paul Dorathy said. “I will also be meeting with the presidents of the building PTOs and CSO. We will be asking for their input and direction to help with the transition. Those are the first couple things we will start doing.
“We will also starting working with staff, as far as what reorganization of teaching assignments might look like for next year,” he said. “We will begin doing that fairly soon, because the staff would like to know what those changes might be fairly early. So that will begin fairly soon.”
One of the main issues with the elementary consolidation will be transportation. Most students now are picked up at or near their homes and dropped off at their schools. But all bus riding students will be taken into the Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center or Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center, which are located approximately one block from each other.
“We will starting looking at how some of the bus routes will need to be reorganized,” Dorathy said. “We will be trying to balance the routes, so that they will be more evenly distributed with the number of kids and the amount of time it takes to run the routes. We can’t do it completely, until we know what students will actually ride next year. But we still will be working with what we have now and trying to decide how those will look for next year.”
While it may sound simple to take the students, who are attending Marion Springs or Vinland elementary schools into Baldwin City, time spent on the bus is a major issue with parents and the district staff. Many parents spoke to the USD 348 Board of Education about concerns that their children would be riding the busses too long before and after school.
“Our ultimate goal is to try and keep our routes somewhere around that hour time limit,” Dorathy said. “We can’t say that we won’t go over, but our goal is to try and stick with the hour.”
Another issue uses for the empty MSES and VES buildings. Once the school year ends in late May, staff members will pack up their boxes and vacate the two schools. What will happen to those buildings if they are closed?
“That’s still in the planning stage,” Dorathy said. “We are still trying to figure out how they might be used, if at all, for next year. It ultimately comes down to what the board decides to do with those buildings.”
While there are some decisions remain, some aspects of the consolidation have been planned for and presented at the Nov. 11 public hearing. At the hearing, Dorathy showed the attendees how the BESIC and BESPC will be laid out with classrooms.
For the 2011-2012 school year, the PEP students and kindergarten through third-grade students will remain at the BESPC, while the 4-year-old program, fourth-grade and fifth-grade classes will be at the BESIC. In 2012-2013, the third-graders will return to BESIC and the 4-year-old classes will return to BESPC. That will also allow the Parents as Teachers and Rainbow Experience Preschool to move into the BESPC as originally planned.
“I think we need to give an opportunity for people to have some time on this issue,” Dorathy said. “Then we have to start working together and transitioning together, because we are all USD 348. We need to work together to continue the strong tradition of elementary education that we’ve had in this district for a long time.”