Feb 29, 2012 - By Carolyn B. Tyler, Staff WriterA proposal to move all School District 25 third-grade classes from their individual elementary schools to Rendezvous Elementary School for 2012-13 was detailed to the Riverton school board and the public Tuesday night by superintendent Terry Snyder.
It is the first move in a three-step plan, which District 25 hopes will culminate in the construction of a new elementary school by August 2016.
Snyder said that while the reconfiguration is proposed to meet the state mandate of a 16:1 student-to-teacher radio in kindergarten through third grades, the real purpose is to better meet the social and academic needs of the lower elementary students.
Snyder and other District 25 officials reviewed a variety of options which had been explored over the past year, but he said available space in the Rendezvous building, which houses all of the district's fourth- and fifth-graders currently, best met the immediate needs, which will bring the ratio to 19:1.
Biggest in state
Moving the third grade to Rendezvous will make it the largest elementary school in Wyoming, with a projected enrollment of 576 pupils in the three grades, up from the current 368 in fourth and fifth grades.
The third grade program of instruction will remain unchanged in self-contained classrooms, Snyder said, and in most cases with the same teachers. Fourth- and-fifth graders already have a modified departmentalized structure for instruction in which students change classrooms.
A series of meetings for parents is planned prior to the school board's next meeting, at which time final action will be taken. The meeting schedule is as follows:
- Aspen Park parents meet to discuss the proposal at 7 p.m. this Thursday, March 1
- Ashgrove parents meet at 3:10 p.m. Tuesday, March 6;
- Jackson parents meet at 8 a.m. Thursday, March 8;
- Rendezvous parents also meet Thursday, March 8, at 3:15 p.m.
Following that, school board members will tour the Rendezvous building to examine the suitability of conversion to a three-grade school.
The structural changes to the Rendezvous building will be paid for from the district's major maintenance funds with the cost estimated by district facility supervisor Larry Hartwell at $175,000. An additional $125,000 will be required for changes in the infrastructure, primarily computers, bringing the total cost of the project to approximately $300,000.
To finance the work through available major maintenance fund, Snyder said some scheduled projects would have to be delayed, primarily not finishing the air conditioning project at Ashgrove elementary and not resurfacing the west half of the parking lot at the Riverton Aquatic Center.
The reconfiguration of Rendezvous to accommodate three grade levels will provide for 11 sections of third grade, nine sections for fourth grade, and eight sections of fifth grade.
As the "bubble" of student population continues through the district, Snyder said other accommodations will have to be made for the 2013-14 years, possibility incorporating modular buildings at Jackson and Aspen Park.
New school plan
The district has submitted a proposal to the Wyoming School Facilities Department illustrating the strain on current District 25 facilities and proposing an additional elementary school building to accommodate the needed 25 classrooms, or two smaller buildings to allow for future growth.
"We are on the list," Snyder said.
Jackson Elementary principal Owen Lampert, Ashgrove Elementary principal Alleta Baltes, and Aspen Park Elementary principal Andrea Verosky, outlined the studies which had been done to try to retain the third grades in those buildings. And they showed how the schools would be reconfigured to provide for more sections of K-2 in the new year.
Mary Jo Chouinard, principal of Rendezvous Elementary, said the plan to revamp that school to accommodate all third graders "is doable" and illustrated how various rooms will be converted to classroom space, with the computer labs located in the modular units outside the building.
At the beginning of this year, Riverton District 25 found itself with a student-teacher ratio of 25:1 in some of the lower elementary grades. Nine teachers were added at Aspen Park at the beginning of the year and an additional eight at mid-year, the latter without static classrooms. An additional nine teachers are needed, Snyder said.
"With this we are 18 classrooms short."
Of the proposed move of the third grades into Rendezvous, Snyder said "this is not the solution we want, but we will work with it. We need a new elementary building. In the meantime we will find space for the newest eight teachers hired, keeping the educational programs intact and without team teaching or using supplemental teachers."
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