Costs, education standards hashed out at special school board meeting

BELLVILLE — People in the Clear Fork valley community heard ideas about restructuring some education practices last week.

Residents, along with Clear Fork Valley School board members, also got to hear from two school officials, who gave them some new dollar figures about what changing things in the district might cost.

A special meeting was held in the Hines Street building and the gymnasium area was filled with people who had gathered to get more information.

Principals Steve Bloir, of the Butler Elementary School, and Kirsten DeVito, of the Bellville Elementary School, told those gathered about their ideas on better instructional practices.

Kevin Carr and Kelly Stanford gave out figures on costs to maintain the Hines Street building, where board of education offices are located. The figures reveal it would not be cost effective to keep the Hines Building. It will probably be torn down, said School Superintendent Janice Wyckoff.

The Clear Fork School District is in the process of planning the building of two new elementary school buildings, those in Bellville and Butler

The proposed education practices ideas were received a bit skeptically by some, who responded by asking their own questions.

DeVito said it is difficult now for a teacher who is handling fourth and fifth grade gifted students because there are too many “transitions.” She said there are more than 20 of those a day, and those involve a teacher moving from one subject to another.

The principals said there would be advantages to “looping” children in the fourth and fifth grades so that teachers would work in pairs, and would have the children for two years.

Board chairman Jim DeSanto said he was having problems understanding Bloir and DeVito’s suggestions.

“What is it we’re doing differently?” he asked.

One woman in the crowd, who asked to be identified as a Clear Fork teacher for 23 years, said they were “looking at a big transition.”

DeVito said changing to a “pooling” regimen means someone teaching gifted students would have to know six subjects. There is one person on staff, Kelly Shinabarker, who is there to provide support for people working with children in the gifted students program.

Board member Dan Freund said he has a “personal bias against grouping” which means that children have to be judged by rankings from low to high. He said he believes parents should be involved in talks about this subject.

Board member Jim Klenk said he knows change is difficult, but there has to be a process. There should be a time line, he said, and data should be collected. He said he has two daughters who have been identified as gifted, and that he believes that if a person is identified as being in the 98th percentile in one area, he or she will probably be in that percentile in another.

DeSanto said everyone should keep in mind the information provided by Bloir and DeVito is preliminary, and people should remember it is about “what is best for the kids.” He said there is still time and the ideas should be given the “benefit of process.”

Klenk said if it is “better for the kids” he is all for it.

“It’s going to be difficult from what I’m hearing,” he said.

The topic is one that can come up again in the next school board meeting April 20.

Carr and Stanford said some apparatus in the Hines Street building is outdated. The boiler there was put in it 1994. If the district were to keep the building the rooftops would cost $400,000. Boiler replacement could take $100,000, Carr said.

There are abatement problems involving asbestos in both the Hines Street building and the annex, which adjoins the Bellville Elementary School. To take out the floor tile in the Hines Street building would cost $30,000. Changes could be made in the annex building that would not be as costly, Carr said.

Board member Klenk said this discussion was the first time he had heard about the possibility of tearing down the Hines Street building.

Wyckoff said there had been an earlier discussion about heating systems, and that figures indicate “if you spend that much it is counter productive” to keep and repair that building.

The question of where administrative offices would be located if the Hines Street building is torn down hasn’t been resolved.

Administrative offices could be put in a trailer, and Carr said he had gotten costs on that, but “they’re ugly.”

Wyckoff said they “could work out of cars.”

It is likely those offices would be removed to the annex building.

Steve Bloir and Kirsten DeVito, principals at the Butler and Bellville elementary schools, explain new standards they are proposing for education of students. Photo by Louise Swartzwalder Bloir and Kirsten DeVito, principals at the Butler and Bellville elementary schools, explain new standards they are proposing for education of students. Photo by Louise Swartzwalder