Oak Creek South Routt School District officials have announced plans to transition sixth-graders back to Soroco Middle School, five years after dropping the grade to the South Routt Elementary School.
Superintendent Kelly Reed told South Routt School Board members Tuesday that anticipated enrollment increases will necessitate the re-creation of a true Soroco Middle School campus in the 2008-09 academic year. Along with the realignment, he also stated plans to hire a full-time middle school principal and two full-time teachers.
The boost in students and staffing is a reversal of recent trends. Declining enrollment has caused the gradual dismissal of six teachers and five paraprofessionals over the past several years, along with a reduction in the number of extracurricular activities in South Routt schools.
After moving the sixth grade to the middle school, Reed will add one full-time teacher to both the elementary school in Yampa and the middle school, to have two full-time teachers per grade and lower classes sizes.
"We've gone through the pros and cons, and as an administrative team this is what we feel is in the best interest educationally for the kids," said Reed, who hopes a turnaround in enrollment numbers will fund the realignment and staffing plans, which will cost $152,000 in the first year.
The Colorado Department of Education uses final enrollment numbers as of Oct. 1 of each school year to determine how much funding each district receives per student, often referred to as per pupil operating revenue.
Reed anticipates an enrollment count of 397 students for the 2008-09 academic year, followed by 410 students in 2009-10, and 420 students in 2010-11.
"If the scenario holds true - and there are a million 'what-ifs' - then next year we will have an increase of 13 students, which accounts for $104,000," he said.
The school district also will have additional funds next year from a mill levy increase approved by voters in November, to generate an additional $360,000 per year for district needs. Beginning in 2009, Reed hopes the realignment and staffing additions will be paid for by PPOR money.
"In a perfect world, we could have additional income to help offset the additional costs, and that's what we are hoping will occur, but all these numbers could go down the tubes," he said. "Regardless of the money issues, adding this staff is what is best educationally for kids."
School Board President Tim Corrigan said there are two ways to look at Reed's plan.
"On one hand, you can say it's costing $152,000 to move the sixth grade, but on the other hand, you can say that two-thirds of that money is to reduce class sizes," he said. "We all have been in agreement that we need a full-time administrator at the middle school."
James Chamberlin, the high school and middle school principal, said moving the sixth grade back to the middle school is not a full restoration of the make-up of the middle school prior to the massive budget cuts. Staffing positions such as special education teachers, para-professionals, counseling resources and a woodshop instructor will not be at the same levels as before the cuts.
Chamberlin stressed that despite the staff shortages in some extracurricular positions, sixth-graders will be fully integrated into the middle school campus. He said adding a full-time middle school administrator is key for the realignment to succeed.
"For staff, for kids, for retention, for training, for bringing in new teachers and supporting them to stay in our district, you need to have full-time administrative support," he said.
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