Potential Consolidation of Primary Schools

  • Elizabethtown Area School District
    Board Update on February 11, 2020
    Potential Consolidation of Primary Schools

    • At regularly scheduled school board meetings, conversations about the District’s four-phase building program have been ongoing for many years. Discussions began over twelve years ago with the concept and building of the Bear Creek School, the renovation and expansion of East High Street Elementary School, and the renovation and expansion of Bainbridge Elementary School.
    • The purpose of the four-phase building program was to address capacity issues and learning environments that were less than optimal. Additionally, the District identified current deficiencies in existing school buildings such as mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems; interior finishes and equipment; exterior building systems such as roof replacement and window replacement; and Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility and code issues that need to be addressed in the building program.
    • Detailed and vigorous conversations have occurred as the District continues to investigate all plausible options to address capacity, learning environments, and building deficiencies.  The District continues to seek solutions that are aligned with our overarching goal of providing quality educational offerings in a fiscally sound and sustainable manner.
    • The District’s guiding principles focus on the future of our educational programming and opportunities for our students via our Life Ready Model.
    • With every building construction project, consideration is given to:
      • Population density of our students.
      • Geographic location of our schools.
      • Elementary population as a whole.
      • Building capacity.
      • Age and conditions of our schools.
      • Equity of our educational offerings at each building.
      • Transportation.
      • Maintenance and security.
      • Maximizing the efficiencies of our operations and schools.
      • Fiscal sustainability.
    • The board of school directors has been discussing in open, public sessions the decision to renovate the lower level of the middle school, which would allow the District to move sixth grade back to the secondary school complex and move all third graders to the Bear Creek School the summer of 2021. We continue to be on track to go out to bid this month and award bids in March.
    • The focus has shifted to addressing the remaining primary elementary schools - Rheems and Mill Road -  with planning for Rheems renovation slated to begin in February 2020.
    • At the January 28, school board meeting, superintendent of schools Dr. Michele Balliet requested time to review the current plan of renovating Rheems Elementary School to determine if - in a new K-2 structure with approximately 710 full-time equivalent students - it is the most fiscally responsible pathway to address the issues of capacity, learning environment, building deficiencies and operational efficiencies at the primary level.
    • The Board of School Directors granted the administration permission to proceed with the preliminary research.
    • Final decisions have not been made regarding the consolidation of Rheems and Mill Road Elementary Schools.
    • Current progress of the exploratory phase is as follows:
      • The administration sent a communication to all EASD employees, K-12, to inform them of our review of options.
      • District administration met with the faculties at Bainbridge and Rheems Elementary Schools, as well as with the faculty of the Bear Creek School to discuss the “why” behind our request for further research.
      • Individual questions/concerns brought forth from staff have been answered. All faculty and staff were highly encouraged to continue to share feedback through their building administration and/or Mr. Portser (troy_portser@etownschools.org).
      • Information was posted to all EASD social media platforms and the District website to explain the why behind our request for further research. Again, the point of contact is Mr. Porster (troy_portser@etownschools.org)
      • All parents/guardians with students enrolled in the EASD were sent a phone call, email, and text message with information regarding our review of options.
      • District administrators reviewed the floor plans and toured each primary facility to view the current usage at each school.
      • District administration provided information to our architect regarding the current number of classes needed at each grade level; the desire for full-day K classrooms in each primary building based upon identified need; an adherence to our guiding principals for instruction; and class size targets of 23 at the primary level.
      • District administration requested an architectural review of our capacity at Bainbridge and East High Street Elementary Schools, as well as a determination of potential costs if we were to consolidate to two K-2 schools, utilizing our same guiding principles and class size targets.
      • Several members of the district administration met with a community member who volunteered their time and services in helping us review potential options for our March recommendation to the board.
      • Meetings are occurring between grade levels and buildings to address some of the movements that will occur with sixth grade and third grade.


    NEXT STEPS:  

    • District administration is awaiting feedback from our architect.
    • District administration is leading a review of the impacts of the scheduled movements of sixth grade to the middle school and third grade to the Bear Creek School.
    • District administration is continuing to analyze resignations and retirements in light of our staffing and Life Ready Model to make recommendations to the board.
    • District administration is determining organizational needs that could possibly be addressed with consolidation.
    • District administration is brainstorming realignment of staffing at all levels to meet our organization’s needs and position us for the future.

    In gathering and developing information to share with the board and the public, the District’s goal is to ensure tha