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Proposal would put ELV students in elementaries

Published 10:24 am Friday, January 25, 2013

The Primary Committee will recommend all Franklin County elementary schools be restructured to include preschool through fifth grade but it will do so reluctantly.

The committee of 35 members was formed to explore the options for the future of the Early Learning Village East. Upon agreeing on three proposed options, the committee was then divided into three subcommittees to find data and research on each of the three options.

The group reconvened Thursday to present its findings and formulate a recommendation to bring to the Board of Education Feb. 4 for a vote.

But board member Jennifer Grisham-Brown said there is no way the board will be ready to make a decision Feb. 4 instead, it would like to hear each of the three presentations, despite the committees recommendation.

The committee decided on the preschool through fifth grade option for financial reasons, but some argued the other two options creating two preschool through kindergarten schools or splitting all elementary schools into a preschool through second grade and third through fifth grade structure would better achieve student success.

The numbers are stacked against what is good for the kids, committee member Greg Hardison said. That seems to outweigh what we think might be better for the student.

Redistricting students and restructuring schools to include preschool through fifth grade in each building will save in transportation costs and will not require any new facilities.

Do I think this will hurt our students? Absolutely not, Franklin County Superintendent Chrissy Jones said.

Were still going to have caring teachers and principals who are instructional leaders.

While the committee was convinced a preschool through fifth grade structure was its only option given facility and financial limitations, it will still present the following pros and cons of each option to the board at the Feb. 4 meeting.

PRESCHOOL THROUGH KINDERGARTEN

The committee found it would be impractical and unfeasible to create a countywide preschool through kindergarten center. There is no existing facility that could accommodate the entire age group in one building, and the district cannot afford to construct an additional school.

A preschool and kindergarten center would also mean additional transitions for students, which is shown to negatively affect academic performance.

The committee also agreed the model could hurt higher-level students, as well. Because the school would accommodate students through kindergarten, there wouldnt be much opportunity for students to work above their grade level.

They did find many positive aspects of the concept, however. Personnel could receive specialized training on instructional models geared toward early learners. The specialized early education would in turn reduce the number of students requiring special education services.

Additionally, grouping all preschool and kindergarten students together would allow the schools to offer a wrap-around childcare, potentially generating revenue for the district.

Because of the benefits of a school specialized in early learning, the committee formulated an alternative option: eliminating first grade from the current Early Learning Village, collect data on the schools success and revisit the issue in three to five years to determine whether the model would also work on the west side of the county.

Because of the current westside vs. eastside mentality among Franklin County parents and faculty, the committee agreed the option would not work.

PRESCHOOL THROUGH SECOND GRADE, THIRD GRADE THROUGH FIFTH GRADE

The committee found the cons of a model that features preschool through second grade and third through fifth grade far outweigh the pros.

While the structure would fit well in the existing buildings and would allow for collaboration, there would be little room for growth the model would put each building at or near capacity.

Although the model would provide separation of primary and intermediate grades, allowing staff to specialize in each category of learning, it would require additional transitions.

The committee found this option to be the least cost-effective, but most disruptive for children and families.

Additionally, because third grade is the first grade accountable in state assessments, the structure could have a negative impact on district evaluations students in a new school or classroom have demonstrated a drop in test scores.

PRESCHOOL THROUGH FIFTH GRADE

A preschool through fifth grade model would require the least transitions for students and families and cause little disconnect in curriculum, instruction or assessment.

Children would remain in a familiar environment for their entire elementary school years, allowing parents to become more involved.

The committee argued the structure could result in more collaboration because all teachers in the school are included in accountability measures and will feel like a team.

The committee also discussed several negatives of the option including a loss of the early childhood concept ELV provided. Additionally, it will not allow staff to receive specific professional development for their grade level because faculty meetings will include a larger spectrum of developmental stages.

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