Fifty Iolans piled in to the USD 257 district board office Monday to hear the district’s proposal for attendance centers.
Currently McKinley Elementary houses kindergarten through third grade; Jefferson and Lincoln have kindergarten through fifth grade.
At the Feb. 23 board meeting administration proposed turning elementary schools into attendance centers. McKinley would have preschool and kindergarten; Jefferson first and second; and Lincoln third and fourth. The fifth-graders would move to the middle school.
Iola Middle School Principal Jack Stanley and Jefferson Principal Brad Crusinbery presented the plan.
Stanley said administrators have looked to see if the middle school would hold the classes. Fifth grade would run more of an elementary school schedule on the third floor. Specials would be served and classrooms designated for the special classes. Stanley there were things that need to be tweaked and looked at but it can be done.
Some potential roadblocks include organization for assemblies. The gym would not be able to hold all the students. Also, parking around the building would need to be changed to one-way streets to handle the increased traffic flow.
Moving fifth-graders to IMS would allow class sizes to be smaller. The administration considered having Jefferson host the third, fourth and fifth grades.
“We could do third, fourth and fifth at Jefferson but class sizes would be bigger,” Crusinbery said. “The options are there. With current numbers class sizes would run from 20 to 23 if kept at Jefferson.”
Jefferson has 14 rooms and there would be a reduction of staff if third, fourth and fifth stayed there. There would be 12 classes on the third floor of the middle school.
ADMINISTRATORS have said attendance centers would benefit the students in various ways.
“When it comes to efficiency what do you believe is the best for the education of the kids,” board member Mark Burris said.
“I personally and professionally think they can all have the best teachers and we would get away from one school versus another,” Stanley said. “All the resources would be in one place.”
Board President Tony Leavitt pointed out the board considered moving another class during the bond issue.
“When we were talking about the bond election and one building we talked about moving sixth grade back to the elementary school,” Leavitt said. “I’ve heard from a lot of teachers they felt like sixth-graders weren’t quite ready for middle school.”
Crusinbery said fifth and sixth grades could be put into a different schedule. They could have students arrive at different times but the students already ride the bus together.
Darrel Catron asked how it would affect special education.
Bob Coleman, director of the ANW Special Education Cooperative, said it would help special education with resources. Currently ANW classes are in a building owned by the housing authority. If attendance centers were created the preschool would move to McKinley and have two classrooms. Kindergarten would have six classrooms.
“Remember there will be a lot of moving of materials that needs to take place over the summer time so we’re ready time school,” Stanley said. “This decision needs to be made soon.”
Superintendent of Schools Jack Koehn said he would like to have the package together by the first meeting in April.
LEAVITT opened the meeting to questions from the community.
Lisa Wicoff, a parent of four children, said she had a hard time moving fifth grade to middle school. Her youngest son is in fourth grade and turn 10 in April.
“I’m not against attendance centers. I think there can be a lot of good come out of it,” she said. “However, when I pictured attendance centers I didn’t imagine my 10-year-old on the third floor of the middle school.”
The board has considered removing classes from the Bowlus Fine Arts Center. There is a possibility band classes would then be moved to the middle school. Wicoff noted this means high-schoolers would be coming in and out of the building.
“I’m not convinced that they wouldn’t see each other,” Wicoff said. “I would be more supportive of third, fourth and fifth.”
Wicoff said rushing this plan could cause problems in the community.
“This could be perceived as a punishment for not passing the bond issue,” Wicoff said. “By rushing this, we haven’t given the community time to heal.”
She mentioned combining school parent-teacher organizations and how it’s hard for some to accept change.
“I didn’t expect the legislature to put us in this situation,” she said. “Every time we rush we make mistakes.”
Iolan Larry Walden asked if the board had considered the number of students lost to other districts.
“Every year we lose at least one family because they don’t get the school they want,” Crusinbery said.
Walden said if the board made the change to attendance centers before the election, the board will be different.
“The people educating the kids will still be the same even if the board changes,” Burris said. “We look to the administration for advice.”
Julie Strickler taught fifth grade for 31 years.
“I would see them fit in,” she said. “We have kindergarten through fifth right now and we have no problem with a 5-year-old with a 12 year old.”
The board will continue to discuss this issue at the next board meeting. The next meeting has been moved to 6 p.m. March 24 to allow people to attend Kindergarten Roundup.