The Adair County School District Local Planning Committee voted last week to reconfigure the Adair County School District.
Superintendent Alan Reed spoke to the LPC on Thursday about the possibility of reconfiguring the schools in order to save money in light of recent state fund cuts, impending federal cuts and the cost of building a new school.
Plans for a preschool wing had been included in the new school’s design. The district halted construction on the preschool wing two weeks ago in hopes of reconfiguration.
During the meeting, Reed suggested the district scrap plans for the preschool wing in the new school and restrict it to Adair County Elementary School, which already has a preschool wing.
“We’ve double checked, triple counted…it works,” Reed said. “It gets our school district out of a horrible financial bind.”
The new reconfiguration proposal for the 2013-2014 school year is as follows, while eliminating the use of John Adair Intermediate School.
• New school currently under construction: kindergarten, first and second grades.
• Adair County Elementary School: preschool, third, fourth and fifth grades.
• Adair County Middle School: sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
• Adair County High School remains the same with ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades.
While supportive of the proposal, most of the principals in the district had concerns about the details of the reconfiguration, especially regarding the crowding of the schools by eliminating JAIS.
“All of our buildings are going to be crowded, but it’s what we have to do at this time,” Reed said.
ACMS principal Alma Rich had concerns regarding moving the sixth grade into the middle school. Rich said they would possibly have to clear out at least nine classrooms to make room for an extra grade.
Reed said he walked through the school with Assistant Superintendent to the schools Brenda Mann and Instructional Supervisor Phyllis Curry and is convinced the building could maintain sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
“In the end, it all does work,” Reed said.
Another concern was the number of students predicted to attend ACES next year. Mann predicted that, under the proposal, more than 650 students would attend ACES next year, while it was designed for 600 students.
JAIS principal Jane Branham was concerned about the student-to-teacher ratio if the student population reached that high. Mann said the student-to-teacher ratio is maintained by the state.
Also in the proposal, students in preschool would be placed at ACES and then transferred to kindergarten at the new school.
“I am worried about moving our smallest kids,” said ACES principal Robbie Harmon.
Reed said while they would be switching schools, the entire grade would be placed together while in the past pre-school was separated between ACES and Col. Wm. Casey.
Branham was also concerned about the staff at John Adair once they learn the school will be shutting down.
“I’ve got to have an answer to the people in my building,” Branham said.
Reed said most of the savings from closing JAIS would be through maintenance and utilities. Staffing decisions would be made when new site-based councils are elected.
From a curriculum stand point, Curry said the teachers in Adair County have set high standards.
“Our teachers are out in the forefront of the curriculum and standards,” Curry said. “It’s going to make it difficult to do, but it’s the best solution at this time.”
The LPC voted unanimously after an hour of discussion to reconfigure the schools from five facilities to four, eliminating the use of John Adair Intermediate.
“In short we are taking control of our own destiny, instead of waiting for some government bailout or capital outlay (building) funds that are likely to be years out of there, if at all,” Reed said. “The actions of the LPC and the BOE are both fiscally and educationally sound. Taxpayers will also appreciate our efforts to streamline.”
Reed said he is pleased with the decision because it means students will be beginning the next year in either new or recently renovated facilities and save on operating costs by tearing down two of the state’s worst facilities with JAIS ranked No. 1 and Col. Wm. Casey ranked No. 8.
The reconfiguration would save the school district around $500,000 a year in operational costs. Reed said on the heels of a $170,000 cut in SEEK funds and expected federal cuts, the move will make an important impact on the school district.
Plans will include making principal assignments by Jan. 1, board will ask employees regarding placement by Feb. 1 and schedule interviews, attempt to assign staff by late February or early March 2013, work with principals and the central office leadership team, and all other decisions will come after new site-based councils are decided upon.
The school board met briefly after the meeting and approved the reconfiguration proposal from the LPC. Board members Mike Harris, Marsha Walker and Floyd Burton all voted in favor of the proposal.
Board members Joseph Payne and Rebecca Turner were not present at the meeting.
By Allison Cross-Hollon