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Posted: 01/09/13

RCS talks middle
school re-districting

Observer Staff Writer
      A potential re-districting could balance the population of Romeo Community School's middle schools while saving about $12,000 in the process.
       The Board of Education could approve of a re-districting plan later this month that would shift students from Powell Middle School (PMS) to Romeo Middle School (RMS) beginning in 2014. Before any approvals, though, the board asked if any options could be given to parents with two or more students at the middle schools.
       In December 2011, the board heard from a committee of staff, parents, administrators and others on ways to re-district or re-configure Romeo schools, with the top recommendation suggesting moving the district's boundary to 30 Mile Road. In January 2012, the board voted against any re-districting, saying it was not necessary.
       During the Jan. 7 meeting, Superintendent Nancy Campbell said from that plan she took another look at re-districting the middle schools with their respective principals. She said she wanted to examine it now so that parents would have plenty of time to prepare for any potential movements.
       "The students I'm really talking about . . . are current fourth-graders, which means if the board discusses this item and eventually votes for my recommendation to go in this direction, it would be communicated to students and their families a full year-and-a-half prior," Campbell said.
       According to the latest count day, held on Nov. 5, PMS has a total of 711 students, while RMS has a total of 513 students. Campbell's plan, if approved, would move any current fourth grade students living north of 29 Mile Road and west of Campground to Romeo Middle School in 2014, as they would be in sixth grade at that time.
       If implemented, this would add 36 students to RMS that year. In 2015, 36 more students would attend RMS, while in 2016 the number would increase to 39 students.
       "I'm just trying to very slowly shift the numbers to increase enrollment at Romeo Middle," Campbell said.
       Along with saving $16,000 by eliminating two bus runs for PMS, this means more students could walk to RMS. This also coincides with best practices that say 600 is the ideal student population for a middle school, with the added benefit of providing more manageable workloads for counselors and social workers.
       However, Campbell said the district would be moving students around, which could cause difficulties in student relationships and parent relationships. Additionally, a crossing guard would need to be hired, which comes with a price tag of $4,116 a year, and students would have a longer bus ride at 29 Mile and Campground roads.
       If approved, the re-districting could cause families to worry about transporting students to two different schools, such as a sixth grade and eighth grade student, but Campbell said that it may simply be the case for some families.
       "We need to make the shift sometime," she said. "That's why this is a phase-in plan."
       Treasurer Chris Giancarli asked whether any exceptions could be made for those families that would have two or more students enrolled at the middle school level so families don't have to worry about transporting them.
       Campbell said she would investigate any costs associated with this exception and would bring a formal recommendation to the board later this month or in February.

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