District plans big changes

HOWLAND – School leaders are endorsing a conceptual plan that would rearrange students within the elementary schools and eliminate use of one building in the Howland Local School District.

“We’ve been publicly talking about a reconfiguration, but now we are endorsing a plan,” Superintendent John Sheets said Tuesday.

The plan to save the district about $500,000 was released to the media Tuesday. It calls for:

* All fourth and fifth graders to attend H.C. Mines Elementary School;

* All second and third graders to attend Glen Elementary School;

* All kindergarten and first graders to attend Springs Elementary School;

* North Road Elementary School to be taken out of service.

The schools now are arranged not by grade, but geographically. Sheets said grouping one or two class levels at a single school is becoming part of the school system landscape.

The plan was developed after reviewing elementary enrollment numbers and the physical capacity of the schools.

“Elementary enrollment has basically stayed the same for the last seven years,” he said.

With about 1,275 K-5 students on average for the last several years, he said the buildings are being under utilized.

By shuffling students, he said class sizes will be more balanced. Teacher cuts are not expected, but staffing cuts are.

“There is going to be a reduction in support staff less secretaries, custodians, kitchen staff, less administration and a principal,” Sheets said.

Sheets said North Road Elementary School was chosen for elimination because it is the oldest and is not handicap friendly. Cutting it from the system will save about $500,000 per year. The district has lost about $2 million dollars in funding over the last two years and recent levy attempts failed.

“It’s one step, obviously there will be some savings, but it’s not the answer to our fiscal distress,” Sheets said.

North Road Principal Carl Clark said he is not worried about losing his position, but rather is focused on how the reconfiguration can benefit the students.

Clark said it will also benefit the children to grow up with each other instead of finally mixing together when they reach middle school in sixth grade.

Reconfiguration details will be discussed at public meetings next month. Sheets said a decision is expected by the end of February in order to implement the plan for the 2014-2015 school year.

“There will be challenges, but at the end of the day whatever we decide will be best for the kids,” Clark said.