By TRICIA HILL
It was a big night for the Riverdale School Board on Monday, as they met for their regular board meeting looking to approve the new 4K schedule, a multi-purpose building, and the moving of the seventh and eighth grade students to the high school. However, out of the three items only two were approved and one was tabled for the next board meeting in hopes of more information.
The matter that was tabled was the moving of the seventh and eighth grade students to the high school, which was brought up as an informational item at the February board meeting. Reasons that were listed for having the students move to the high school include: increase of teacher availability for students in grades fifth through twelfth by eliminating seven teachers from traveling and reducing travel for five other teachers, create more flexibility in scheduling classes by allowing both buildings to operate an individual bell schedule, and stabilizing staff to student ratio per building as there are 183 students in the high school and 492 students in the REMS.
Parent Jeff Muench was in attendance at both the February meeting and the meeting on Monday night and both times made it clear he was against this move happening.
“I guess it is my understanding with reading the paper and a couple other sites that the topic of the seventh and eighth grade going to the high school if I am assuming right is being voted on tonight. And everything you read already if we’re voting on it seems like this thing is already going through, and that is what you get from the paper and a couple other sites that I have been too,” Muench said. “I don’t think that’s fair that it gets out to the public before the board even meets and puts the vote together.”
Muench asked the board if anyone had gone out in the community and talked to parents on how this would affect their kids directly. He made it clear to them that if they hadn’t he had, and he knew for a fact that there were at least five families that would pull their kids from the Riverdale School District if the seventh and eighth grade students are moved to the high school.
“Five whole families, so they have at least one student in this district, some of them two and three kids, and that’s what we’re going to lose,” Muench said. “Are we ready for that as a district, because that is just the people that I know.”
“I work a full-time job and I haven’t put myself out front to people that I don’t know in the community, but these are people that I know that are going to leave this district,” Muench said. “So if the vote goes through tonight we’re going to lose some kids and lose some good people out of this district. I have two kids right now that I can guarantee if this goes through they will be out of this district and I will open enroll within a week.”
Teacher Todd McKay is one of the teachers that travel between buildings and was in attendance to speak in favor of the move.
“I see it as an opportunity for my daughter, as she can take Spanish one, an algebra class or something like that so it will free her schedule up as a sophomore, junior or senior, so she can take other classes and have other opportunities,” McKay said. “I see this as a win for her. As a child I grew up in a high school that was a sixth through twelfth high school. I never had any issues with any seniors or juniors. I feel it comes down to us as a parent preparing my daughter if she is going to go to the high school as a seventh grader for things she may hear and let her know if she has questions to come to talk to me.”
McKay explained to the crowd that he sees it as a win for everyone as the students will have more opportunities to take part in more classes and as a teacher he won’t have to worry about his students sitting alone if he gets busy at one of the buildings with a student.
“We have teachers running back and forth and I am one of them. Prime example, today I am at the high school sixth hour and at the REMS seventh hour and I have three minutes to get from one building to the other. I was working with a sophomore, so my eighth graders sat in the classroom for eight minutes by themselves,” McKay said. “I see it as a win because we will all be in one building and kids won’t be sitting alone. It’s a good thing I have good students and don’t have to worry about them hanging from ceilings or anything like that.”
One of the concerns that was mentioned at the February meeting was trying to diminish the interactions between the younger students and the older students. Some of the ways they hope to handle this situation include: separate lockers and lunches; add supervision for bus loading, noon lunch/recess, locker rooms and in between classes; create an area that the middle school can use during noon recess (behind the school), and designate an area for the middle school students to congregate before school.
Another question was what would the cost be to move the students over and while they didn’t have a set price, they would need to add two outdoor basketball hoops, 5-8 tables for dining room, some office equipment for student records, and desks or tables.
It was asked if it would be feasible for the high school students to move to the REMS and the elementary students move to the high school building. That was not a plan of action that could happen due to room designs and lack of shop areas for high school students at the REMS. The cost would be very high to make that happen. There are also not enough rooms at the high school to fit elementary classes in.
It was also asked if instead of having the teachers travel, if they could just hire more teaching staff for the middle school and leave the students where they are. That was also not a reasonable idea as the high school teaching licenses are more specific than middle school teaching licenses. The high school staff can’t cover other classes at the high school to fill in their hours.
After discussing the matter it was decided by the board to once again table the matter until the next meeting to have more information brought to them on how they could make the teachers more available to the students whether they move them or they leave them in the REMS.
Teachers were asked to come back to the board with more information regarding changing the 4K class schedule from two full days a week to five half-days with a Wrap Around Care in the afternoon. Students would spend half of the day with Mrs. Drone and the other half of the day in the Wrap Around Care (daycare) with paraprofessionals. So this program does not take away from the HeadStart program, they are working with the school so they can take their usual students in the afternoon and cover some of the same material that would be covered during the Wrap Around Care time.
“HeadStart is interested in working with us because they have been seeing the trend in the area and things changing and students going to all day 4K,” Elementry/Middle School Principal Shari Hougan said. “What happens is they deal with 3K and 4K, so if we take all the 4K students, that only leaves them with 3K students. We think we can make this work for both of our programs.”
In order to get on a common teaching plan, the Headstart, Early Childhood and the 4K faculties will meet once a month on an early release to make a plan. This way if Mrs. Drone covers on something during teaching hours, the HeadStart faculty or Wrap Around Care faculty can go over it again using other methods.
The board finally decided to move forward with the new 4K program, so starting next year the 4K students will be attending school five days a week instead of two.
Riverdale received a Pep Grant, which gives them $800,000 spread out over a three year span to be used to purchase equipment to be used by the students. This equipment now needs a place to be stored, so the need of a multi-purpose building has been brought to the attention of the board. The building could be used for many things including youth clubs, athletic practices and the building could be used after school hours and on weekends.
“The wrestling team will move over to the new facility, so almost half that storage area in the gymnasium will go over to the facility,” Administrator Bryce Bird said. “There is just not enough room to put the new equipment, so that is the need for the building.”
When the building was first brought to the attention to the board it was going to cost $1.2 million. It was going to be slightly bigger and included locker rooms for boys and girls. So some members of the board who were working on the multi-purpose building with Bird went back to the drawing board and brought the price down on the building to $630,000.
“Through Act 32 and McKinstry that is doing all of the other products, they would be able to cover the funding for $90,000, which would cover the heating and air conditioning part of it,” Bird said. “I’m going to take $200,000 this year to pay toward the project and the rest of the money would come in the form of a loan, about a 10-year loan. So in ten years we would be paying about $33,000 a year.”
The school would be able to pay ahead on that if need be, but if they didn’t have the extra money all they would have to pay is the $33,000. Bird said there was money they could use in the fund balance if need be, but he would rather not because you never know when you might need that money if something were to happen.
The board briefly discussed it and decided to move forward with the building so they would have the space needed for the equipment being purchased by the Pep Grant.
Outside of the major topics that were discussed the board also approved the set dates for summer school starting with the enrichment program, which will run June 10 through June 30. The jump start program will start on July 27 and run through Aug. 14.
After months of talking about using the teleprescence system to join a consortium with four schools to share classes, the dream will finally become a reality in the 2015-16 school year. The board approved to pay an annual cost of $450 to be part of the BOOST consortium and share teachers and offer more classes using the teleprecence system in their schools.