School Board requests multi-age classroom proposal

While the idea of multi-age classrooms has been “on the table” for a few years, the Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education has  not yet acted on it. However, it now appears that action could be imminent.

At the board’s audit and viability review in November, it was presented that the Wetmore campus had fallen below the district’s fiscal viability standards during the 2016-17 school year. Projections for the 2017-18 school year requested by the board’s Finance Committee — comprised of Ed Reznicek, Kathy Lippert and Kent Saylor — showed Wetmore dropping into a further deficit despite cuts implemented this year.

In December, board members said they would like to consider the possibility of multi-age classrooms more seriously, because saving money through the combination of two or more classrooms at Wetmore could help the campus’ offset viability concerns. The goal for the Wetmore campus is to be back in viability compliance by the board’s review of the 2018-19 school year audit, which would take place in the fall of 2019.

At the board’s meeting held Monday, Jan. 8, at Wetmore Academic Center, Superintendent Todd Evans asked the board to consider whether they want to eliminate an elementary position and create a multi-age classroom at Wetmore Elementary School.

If it is the board’s wish to create multi-age classrooms at Wetmore, Evans said, he would recommend that they task Director of Student Learning Jennifer Gatz and WAC Principal Rick Schnacker with determining the best way to do that.

Current counts at Wetmore are as follows: kindergarten, five students; first, 11 students; second, 11 students; third, 14 students; fourth, seven students; fifth, eight students.

Important to note, Evans said, is that at this time in the district there are no resignations of any elementary school teachers.

“If the board voted to eliminate a position [to create a multi-age classroom at WES] and there is a resignation, the district would be able to relocate a teacher so that no one loses a job unwillingly,” Evans said. “But if there is no resignation, the district would be looking at elementary staff district wide and followings its reduction in force policy.”

Board Member Jim Scoby stated that, even with the elimination of a staff member and with the understanding that this could incur support hiring, the viability figures at Wetmore are still not looking good.

Evans said he agrees that this action alone would not bring the Wetmore campus within viability. However, it would be his plan to combine this cost-cutting measure with others.

“This is at least a way to try to keep things going down here, and gives us another chance,” Saylor said. “At this moment in time, the best you can do is make an attempt to make it better.”

Board Member Jeff DeMint motioned that Gatz and Schnacker explore the possibility of combining classrooms at Wetmore, coming back to the board’s February meeting with a recommendation. The understanding with the motion, DeMint said, is that the board would like to see the reduction made, but is not mandating it at this time.

“They might come back and say, ‘We can’t do it. It is not the best thing for kids,’” DeMint said. “We are here to do what’s best for kids, so I want to see what they come back with.”

The board voted 7-0 to approve DeMint’s motion.

Amber Deters119 Posts

Amber Deters is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2005. She specializes in school board, election and legislative reporting, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Amber is a 2005 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in journalism and mass communications, print journalism sequence. She lives in Sabetha with her husband and three children.

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