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The Press Newspaper

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The Oregon school board voted 5-0 to reconfigure its two middle schools in the 2013-14 school year.

The board has been considering the reconfiguration since June. Raising academics, especially in grades five through eight, as well as more stringent common core state standards, which will begin in 2013, are the reasons why the district is making the changes.

During the board’s December 18 meeting, Superintendent Dr. Michael Zalar laid out the final plans for the reconfiguration prior to the board’s vote.

Eisenhower Middle School will become Eisenhower Intermediate School, housing grades five and six. Fassett Middle School will become a traditional junior high school with grades seven and eight in attendance.

Enrollment numbers in all of the district’s school buildings will change. Current enrollment at Fassett is 474 students. The district anticipates enrollment at the school for the 2013-14 school year to jump to 604. Eisenhower will go from 438 students to 552.

Enrollment at the elementary schools will drop. Coy Elementary will go from 519 students to 432; Jerusalem Elementary will drop from 577 students to 476 and Starr Elementary will see enrollment go from 609 to 508.

The drop in the number of students in the elementary building will allow students to have an extra 20 minutes of music and physical education time each week.

Students at Eisenhower and Fassett will see 20 minutes more math instruction per day. Fifth grade students will now be able to have art classes, which had been previously cut, and six grade students will get a lunch and recess period as well as computer instruction.

The board plans to stick to the current class size agreements, with a maximum number of students at fifth grade being 28, and in grades six through eight being capped at 30 students.

Additional staff at Eisenhower will include a music teacher and an academic coach as well as three part-time monitors. At Fassett, the district will hire an assistant principal/AD, one math teacher and two exploratory teachers.

The estimated cost for the reconfiguration includes $82,000 for facilities and transportation, $153,848 for the additional staff at Eisenhower and $315,706 for the additional staff at Fassett. The total costs for the 2013-14 school year are $551,554.

The district is planning to cover the costs with an anticipated $204,225 from the Casino Revenue Allocation as well as $107,000 in operation savings and another $261,780 in staffing adjustments.

School Board member Jeff Ziviski said he was against the reconfiguration from the beginning, but has since researched the plan, attended meetings and decided he was for the plan.

“I am proud to be a part of this board, we are being proactive,” Ziviski said. “We cannot make everybody happy. We are trying to get ahead of the curve so two years down the road we are not trying to scramble to explain our test scores.”

Board member Carol Molnar said the reconfiguration will mean more help for students and teachers as well.

“With the way our schedules are set now, the extra time for help is not there,” Molnar said. “With the reconfiguration, they will get extra help. Teachers working together is a weak place in our system. With the reconfiguration, our teachers will have time to collaborate. ”

School Board member Diana Gadus said the reconfiguration was “academically driven.”

For the last several years, the district has received an “Effective” rating on the Ohio Department of Education’s State Report Cards. The district has not been able to meet Adequate Yearly Progress, particularly for students with disabilities, on its state report card.

“It is based on what we are going to be required as a district to teach to the new standards,” Gadus said. “We want our students able and ready to embrace the academic challenges. This seems to be the best approach. We need to improve our tests scores more rapidly. A year to a child is a long time.”

School Board President P.J. Kapfhammer said he believed the plan would work.

“Everybody has worked nine months straight to bring a better system to the Oregon schools,” Kapfhammer said. “This has been talked about for 20 years. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. We told our administration team to find a solution, don’t give us excuses. They are the solution, this is the solution. I believe that wholeheartedly. I believe in time you will see this is what our schools have needed. The kids will excel in this environment.”

Zalar thanked the board for its unanimous vote, calling the board “courageous.”

“This truly is a historic night,” Zalar said. “Tonight the board has made the decision to reinvest resources back into the district. For the last several years we have had to reduce staff and programs. We are at a time now where we can turn the tables and reinvest into our district and try to position ourselves for the future. I applaud the board, this was a courageous decision.”

Zalar asked those who are not currently pleased with the redistricting plan to “suspend judgment and keep an open mind.”

“Allow us to demonstrate this plan will work,” Zalar said. “There are many details that will be worked out. This is a plan where everybody wins. This plan will transform our entire system. This is the future of education and we are at the forefront. I think you will see very significant results in a very short amount of time.”

Kapfhammer said after the meeting that student athletes will still be able to participate in sports after the reconfiguration.

“We will have two teams per sport, per grade,” Kapfhammer said. “Athletics won't change for the kids. The kids will have the same opportunities in sports as they had before the reconfiguration.”

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