By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
Presentation of a school redistricting plan was taken off Thursday night’s Madison County School Board agenda and will not be considered for the 2013-14 school year.
The board “wanted an opportunity to take a full look at the plan and discuss consequences before we move in that direction,” board chair Mona Isaacs said Thursday afternoon.
“The plan may look entirely different by next year,” she said after the board meeting.
The plan originally proposed by administrators would have affected all three Richmond-area middle schools and six elementary schools. It was presented to the board at a Feb. 7 work session by Dr. Kevin Hub, assistant superintendent in human resources.
During that meeting, the board gave Hub permission to move forward with a communication plan and to formally present it at the regular monthly board meeting. But, after the work session, board members said they came to believe more questions had to be answered, Isaacs said. They also wanted to speak with community members to get their opinions.
A community forum would be conducted before a final vote, she said.
“If we don’t stop and give it more consideration, then we’re not doing our due diligence,” Isaacs said.
If the board were to consider a redistricting plan for the 2014-15 school year, it would need to be adopted by March 2014 so staff allocations could be determined.
In early spring each year, staff is allocated to schools based on projected enrollment. Per state regulation, Hub must notify teachers by May 15 if the district is unable to renew their contract.
If the district does not renew a teacher contract, but later finds that a teacher is needed, the district risks having lost “a very good teacher” who may have by then taken a job in a neighboring district, Hub said.
The original redistricting proposal
The originally proposed plan would have reduced White Hall Elementary’s enrollment by 100 students and added students to Mayfield and Kirksville elementary schools, which both have capacity for more students, he said.
“The perception is that White Hall is our ‘blue-ribbon school’ in the district and that there are so many out-of-district kids in its district,” he said.
However, there is a net-gain of only three out-of-district students at White Hall, meaning 30 students who are districted to go to White Hall, go to other schools. But, 33 students districted to other schools attend White Hall, Hub said.
Enrollment in White Hall has declined over the past four years, he said, but the school is still over capacity by more than 100 students.
“Over capacity” doesn’t mean students are “having class in the hallways,” Hub explained. “It means that what might have been designed as a teacher’s lounge might now be a classroom or there might be some roving teachers.”
For example, instead of a teacher taking his or her planning period in an empty classroom, a teacher might use a teacher’s lounge while another class is brought into the empty classroom.
“When I look at the numbers, I see that we have capacity for 400 more elementary students in the Richmond elementary schools,” according to Hub, who said the district has grown by only 248 elementary students over the past five years.
“That’s 50 kids a year … we’re just not growing like we were seven or eight years ago,” when the district was adding about 180 students a year, he said.
The district’s leadership team has been working on ways to save money, Hub said, and one of the things that would cost money is to build a new elementary school. This redistricting plan would buy the district four to six years before a new elementary school would be needed.
“A new elementary school can cost $18 million to $20 million and around a $500,000 hit to the general fund,” Hub said. “A lot of teachers can be redistributed, but there’s a price for a brand new principal, brand new administrative assistants — some brand new positions that just cost money forever. Not to mention, the price of the land and transportation.”
Hub said the redistricting process started with a look at a map of Madison County and finding eight areas that could be redistricted and would worked out geographically. He then met with the transportation director, who showed him where some of the bus routes are.
“I had an idea of what made sense,” Hub said. “We matched that up to bus routes to be least disruptive and also to minimize costs. What I didn’t want to happen was a redistricting plan that yields us five new bus routes.”
Additionally, the currently proposed plan includes a middle school feeder pattern change. White Hall and Glenn Marshall elementary schools would feed B. Michael Caudill Middle School; Kit Carson and Daniel Boone elementary schools would feed Madison Middle School; and Mayfield and Waco elementary schools would feed Clark-Moores Middle School. Kirksville Elementary would feed Madison and Farristown middle schools. Currently it feeds three middle schools.
Under the redistricting proposal, students would still have had the opportunity to attend a school outside of their district through permission from the principals of both schools. However, transportation is provided only to a schools in a student’s district, Hub said. Principals are limited by capacity and staffing when considering whether to accept an out of district student.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.