The Oregon school board will hold a special board meeting on Monday, December 3, at 7 pm. to formally lay out the final plans for the district’s proposed reconfiguration of Eisenhower and Fassett middle schools.
The board has been looking at the possible reconfiguration since June.
The plan calls for one of the junior high schools to be turned into an all fifth and sixth grade school. The other school would then house grades seven and eight.
Raising academics, especially in grades five through eight, as well as more stringent common core state standards, which will begin in 2014, are the reasons why the district is considering the changes.
The earliest the reconfiguration could take place would be for the 2013-2014 school year.
At the November 20 meeting, Superintendent Dr. Michael Zalar told the board the district is ready to present a mock schedule of what a school day would be like in the middle school buildings.
“We are able to reveal to the community a more detailed picture of what the curriculum and school day would look like in the buildings,” Zalar said. “The main features would be more time available for students to spend in math and more time and opportunity to get intervention and help in math.”
The district has received an “Effective” rating on the Ohio Department of Education’s State Report Cards for the last several years, though it has not been able to meet `Adequate Yearly Progress,’ particularly for students with disabilities.
The district assessments are based on 26 indicators garnered through the results from standardized tests, plus graduation and attendance rates. In order to meet the indicators, 75 percent of the students tested must be at or above the proficient level.
In Oregon, third and fourth grade students have been meeting the indicators in math and reading. Fifth and sixth grade students have been meeting the state requirement in reading, but have fallen short in both math and science. Seventh and eighth grade students have been meeting the requirements in math and reading, but the eighth grade students have not been meeting the requirements in science.
Zalar explained to the board that the additional math class time as well as the extra time students can receive in math will come from the addition of extra staff at both schools.
The district has held six public forums that have been well attended, Zalar said.
“The big question is how much will it cost and how will we pay for it,” Zalar said. “We have been looking at our budget and we believe we have the ability to capture the amount of money the reconfiguration would cost by tightening our belts in other areas of the budget. We hope to present a `break even’ proposal.”
Board President P.J. Kapfhammer told The Press in November the board has been looking at three different scenarios, everything from what he called the dream “Cadillac plan” to the lower budget “Yugo” plan. Costs for the reconfiguration range from $200,000 to $700,000, he said.
Zalar told the board the costs for the additional staff, additional transportation costs and the retrofitting of some of the buildings could be covered by reducing other areas of the district’s budget. He said he did not have the final costs for the plan, yet.
“That cost…would not have any negative impact on what we are currently doing,” Zalar said. “We will be able to explain how things will be different than today and how it will be better educationally for our kids. I think it has the significant potential to impact our academic achievement for students in a very positive way going forward.”
The board will not vote on the plan that evening, Kapfhammer said.
There has been little opposition so far at the public hearings.
One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, called The Press last week to express her concerns.
“It’s a gamble as far as bringing up test scores. If it costs $200,000 that means there’s going to be a levy around the corner. Just because they spend this money does not mean it will improve the grades. I’m a senior citizen. I just can’t afford it,” she said.
Another concern, she said, is that transportation would be costly. “You could have kids from out in Bono that have to be bused to Fassett. That’s going to be expensive. And the kids will be on the bus for a very long time in the morning, and coming home. There’s too many `ifs.’ If they bring up the scores, that would be great. If not, they will be costing Oregon taxpayers a lot of money.”