Parents OK with school changes

Next fall, more than 1,300 Clark-Pleasant students could change schools under a plan to handle expected growth.

School officials have discussed options for nearly a year to address overcrowding at the intermediate school. Their proposed plan would turn Clark-Pleasant Intermediate School into an elementary school, move sixth-graders to the middle school and close Sawmill Woods Elementary School.

At a meeting this week, parents said they supported the idea but had questions about the plan, such as what options students had for playing sports and if they could stay at their current elementary school.

Next, a redistricting committee that includes parents, school officials and a school board member will find the school enrollments from each neighborhood and then map out new boundaries for elementary schools.

Once boundaries are set, the group will present a recommendation to the school board this fall. If the school board approves the plan, the new setup will go into effect for the 2016-17 school year.

The school district set two community meetings to answer questions from parents and residents.

About 60 people showed up to the two meetings within the past week, and about 90 parents wrote comments in a survey to share their concerns or support for the plan.

“It’s the option right now, so that’s why we’re coming to you,” Clark-Pleasant Superintendent Patrick Spray said.

The changes are needed because the intermediate school is at capacity. Sawmill Woods needs $5 million in upgrades to be on par with the other elementary schools.

If the school district puts this plan into place, Spray said, no additional redistricting would be necessary for potentially another decade, if enrollment trends continue as they have been.

The school buildings that reach capacity, like the middle school, could have a wing added or the school can convert computer labs into classrooms. That is not expected to happen for another five to 10 years.

School officials are still determining exactly what the changes would cost. Significant construction would not be needed, but the intermediate school would need minor changes, such as turning lockers into cubbies for younger students.

A larger expense would be to give laptops or iPads to middle school and high school students, which would allow Clark-Pleasant to get rid of computer labs in the middle school and high school and use them as classrooms. But in order to do that, the school district would need to spend about $1.3 million to purchase the devices, Spray said. Another $700,000 would be spent to upgrade the school district’s Wi-Fi networks and electrical systems, but 60 percent of the updating costs will be covered by the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission.

School officials have not decided if all students should get devices and would first need to find the money to pay for the new computers.

During the past six months, Spray said, he and other school officials have talked with parents about the redistricting plan, and most parents seem to be on board.

Parents asked questions during the community meetings about sports options for students and what other ideas were considered to address growth, which included adding on to or building a new intermediate school. Parents also asked if students would allowed to stay at their current school if redistricting moved them to a different elementary school. Depending on the number of students who want to stay at their current school, officials will look at those requests, Spray said. Priority would be given to the current fourth-graders so they could finish their elementary school days at the same building, he said.

“I have a first-grader at Pleasant Crossing, so this directly impact my kid’s future,” Greenwood resident Christina Geis said. “I actually like this plan because it makes it so that my oldest will be in school with my youngest for two years instead of only one.”

By the time Geis’ oldest son becomes a fourth-grader, her youngest son will be going into kindergarten. Geis already was considering the logistics of getting her oldest and youngest child to two different schools. Planning her days would get tricky, especially if her children were split between two buses heading to an elementary and an intermediate school, she said.

She also said she thinks her oldest will be more prepared to enter middle school as a sixth-grader than transitioning to the intermediate school in fifth grade.

“It kind of alleviates some of our fears,” Geis said. “It’s hard to transition to new schools and meet new people. When you do it in sixth grade, you’re much more prepared to do it than in fifth grade. It adds a lot of maturity, especially in boys, and right now, that’s all I’ve got.”

The school board could make the redistricting plan official by November, and teachers could potentially find out where they would be moving in January, Spray said.

What's next

Clark-Pleasant school officials have discussed a redistricting plan that would change Clark-Pleasant Intermediate School into an elementary school, make all elementary schools kindergarten through fifth grades, close Sawmill Woods Elementary School and move sixth-graders to the middle school.

Here are the next steps before the school board votes on the new plan:

August/September: A redistricting committee of fewer than 15 people will meet and set new boundaries for elementary schools, including the new elementary school that will move into the existing Clark-Pleasant Intermediate School.

November: The school board could make a decision on the new plan. The redistricting committee will share their results with the school board by the fall.

January: Teachers could find out where they will be moved for the 2016-2017 school year.