Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

TOP STORY >> Plan to ease out portables

Leader staff writer

Dr. Frank Holman, superintendent of Cabot schools, has a plan to have students at Cabot Junior High North attending school next year in real buildings, not the 30 portable buildings that have comprised CJHN since the Aug. 10 fire that destroyed the school.

Holman told the school board’s building and grounds committee last Thursday that safety and finances were not a factor in eliminating the portable buildings. But the district would save half a million dollars in expenses during one year if the portables, which the district pays $40,000 a month in rent for, were gone.

“We have a plan that we could possibly eliminate the portables this summer. It’s not because of finances nor is it for safety reasons,” Holman said. “We did everything we could do for safety concerns – the buildings are staked down, we’ve got alarm systems and fire alarms; we really thought about safety before moving students in there,” Holman said.

Holman’s plan calls for moving ninth-graders to one primary area in the main building of the high school campus. The eighth-graders would be placed on the north part of the high school campus were the ninth-graders currently are, and the seventh-graders would be held at Middle School North for a year.

“This couldn’t have happened had we not moved students into the new facilities (at the high school). Drama and music classes moved in to the Fine Arts building last week, and career and technical classes will move into CHAMPS Hall pretty soon,” Holman said.

“That frees up space and means we could do away with every bit this summer and move the portables out,” Holman said, adding that “Renee (Calhoun, principal of CMSN) would be tight,, but she’s looked at her space; we’d probably have to move two portables over for music and art, but she can make it work for a year.”

School board member Fred Campbell said Holman’s plan would be a wonderful thing for feeding the students, which Jim Dalton, assistant superintendent, agreed has been an issue with meals being bused over. Further information and details on eliminating the portables will be reported in March, Holman said.

The Cabot School District recently agreed to a $12 million settlement with its insurer, Great American Insurance Co. of Ohio, to rebuild CJHN. The district is still undecided on the size of the school that will be rebuilt with the help of state funds or what the district’s share in construction costs will be.

The buildings and grounds committee is also looking at several rezoning plans for the district and will hold a public meeting to hear the criteria parents want the district to consider and implement, as well as their opinions on the district’s ideas.
“These are all just brainstorming ideas,” Holman said.

Holman told the committee of school board members that the best option would have to be decided based on several factors the district must consider.

• Cabot schools cannot build enough kindergarten through fourth-grade buildings to keep up with the district’s growth.
Additional classrooms are on the drawing board for Northside and Westside elementaries, in addition to the new Stagecoach Elementary that is still under construction and a possible new elementary on the west side of the district. The goal is to have no more than 450 students per the eight elementary schools, if possible, Holman said.

• The district can not finance without doing one of three things: asking for a millage increase, going to a new model of grade configuration, or trying to get more money from the state for k-12 schools. Other options Holman said would be to cut programs and salaries, two things he knows would not go over well.

• Every transition from building to building (grade to grade) causes more curriculum issues, lack of alignment, and results in more drop-outs as well as inefficiencies, Holman explained.

• If the district moves to a ninth through 12th-grade high school configuration, it would help with fewer dropouts and result in better and tighter alignment and a seamless transition; it would also mean better collaboration and support. “I would never talk to you about doing a nine-12 and just put them on a campus. It’s about having a school within a school. A ninth-grade academy, a smaller learning community, a family-type thing we are moving to already,” Holman said.

• Teachers’ salaries will probably not be increased at all or very little unless the district has a method of financing new construction and facilities.

“It would be very difficult to put addition money in teacher’s salaries if we continue to put money in facilities because we can’t keep up (with growth),” Holman said.

• Another option that could be looked at is reconfiguring the school alignment for the 2007-2008 school year that will be discussed in Saturday’s paper.