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BPS hosts parent nights on elementary restructuring

March 10, 2018 GMT

This week, administrators and board of education members from Beatrice Public Schools started a series of meetings with parents on proposed changes to the elementary school structure.

The four options were laid out at last month’s board of education committee of the whole meeting, where elementary principals Betty Replogle and Kevin Janssen discussed the possibilities with the board. This week, administrators took questions from parents and addressed concerns at Paddock Lane and Lincoln elementary schools. Next week, at 6:30 p.m., they’ll be holding open parent meetings at Lincoln Elementary on March 13 and at Stoddard on March 15.

On Thursday night, Kevin Janssen went over the four options with about 24 parents who had gathered in the Lincoln Elementary library.

Option one would mean the schools stay nearly the same. Lincoln, Paddock Lane and Stoddard would remain kindergarten through fifth grade schools, but that would involve moving students between sections and could lead to siblings being separated. It would also cut a section from second and third grades, causing class sizes to increase.

The second option would be to continue to leave students in their current elementary schools. It would also decrease the third grade at Lincoln down to one section and move a teacher over to Paddock Lane for a third section of second grade.

The third option would reduce either Lincoln or Stoddard to a 1.5-section school, which would be in the model of the old Cedar Elementary before it became the preschool. Paddock Lane would become a three-section building and Lincoln or Stoddard would have some grades with one or two sections.

Option four would level the buildings, turning Lincoln into a kindergarten through second grade school. Stoddard would then become a third through fifth grade school, Janssen said, but Paddock Lane would remain a kindergarten through fifth grade school due to special education and other programs inside the school.

“I understand that none of these options are great,” Janssen said. “But they’re the options that we’re faced with at the current moment. We have to do what is best for all kids.”

The fourth option would require busing third through fifth grade students from a hub at Lincoln Elementary to Stoddard Elementary, Janssen said

Superintendent Pat Nauroth said that the board hasn’t discussed the cost officially, but the shuttle between Lincoln and Stoddard would be a service provided by the district and parents wouldn’t be charged.

In order to make up for the district’s budget shortfall, a parent asked if the district could sell the property across from the high school—which was purchased to build a new elementary that voters didn’t approve of. It could be sold, Janssen said, but the money would have to go back into the district’s building funds budget. It couldn’t be used to hire a new teacher, he said, but it could potentially be used to renovate existing buildings.

Next Monday, Nauroth said, the school board will again be discussing the options at its monthly meeting, but no decisions will be made that day. There are two more parent discussions to come, he said, which will be addressed at the March committee of the whole meeting and followed by, he hopes, a decision at the board’s April meeting.

Board of Education President Jon Zimmerman said that the board first heard the options about a week ago and hadn’t yet come to a decision on which option would be best.

“We don’t know,” Zimmerman said. “We are hearing this and deciding everything now, with you. Y’all keep saying we don’t listen, we do what we want. Well, we listened and we bring stuff to you. This is why we’re doing this.”

Nauroth, who is leaving the district at the end of this school year, said that they’d been talking with incoming Superintendent Jason Alexander to get some input from him as well. They’re trying to look at the problem from every angle, he said, starting with staff, going to the board and now they’re looking to parents for opinions.

Realistically, Nauroth said, the option that’s probably the easiest to make adjustments on is the grade level building. The other options can be done, he said, but it would require moving kids around to different schools.

“You’re trying to balance two things,” Nauroth said. “One is providing a quality education for kids, the other one is being a good steward of the taxpayer’s money.”