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Posted: 02/06/13

School board mulls over
re-districting decision

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      School officials are still debating the potential re-districting of middle school students to balance enrollment numbers.
       Following its Feb. 4 meeting, the Romeo Community Schools Board of Education decided to put off making a decision on changing middle school boundaries in September 2014 until its Feb. 19 meeting.
       Superintendent Nancy Campbell said Powell Middle School (PMS) has a total of 711 students, but Romeo Middle School (RMS) has a total of 513 students, causing a disproportionate spread amongst the two buildings that the district wishes to remedy.
       "The plan is to equalize the schools as much as we can, to kind of cut down on the overload for the building, the people in the buildings . . . and also to use our buildings more properly," Campbell said.
       The original plan called for a divide that would send students north of 29 Mile Road and west of Campground Road to RMS. Campbell said, however, that this plan would actually cause another imbalance in the future.
       "We would have too many students going over to Romeo Middle School, but in three years I'd have the same issue for Romeo Middle School," Campbell said.
       To fix this, the district would exclude the subdivisions of Stratford and Ravines at the Orchards. With board approval, the reformed plan would move 28 students in 2014, another 28 in 2015 and 41 in 2016.
       Campbell said the movements would begin leveling off the buildings at 600 each, which coincides with best practices given by the state. She said finding a balance is also a goal in the district's Strategic Plan.
       Trustee Gus Demas said he was concerned about the movements of more students to RMS since it is and older building that requires more maintenance and repairs.
       "Is there compelling reasons to do this now under present circumstances and cause potential consternation when we may not necessarily be needing to cause at this time," he said.
       Secretary Joe Fortuna agreed, saying if union negotiations didn't net some savings for the district it would be hard-pressed to keep the building open due to financial constraints.
       Campbell said RMS will remain open for years to come regardless of declining enrollment. She said PMS can only hold 100 more students and remain within safety guidelines.
       "Because of the growth that's anticipated in the south end, we would have to be making capacity arrangements for the students that we anticipate will be at the middle school level," she said.
       The re-districting would net a savings of $16,000 by eliminating two bus runs for PMS, though the extra student walkers would require the hiring of a crossing guard at $4,116 a year.
       Campbell presented the idea of starting the movements in 2015, but board members like President Anita Banach spoke in favor of sticking with the 2014 date.
       "If there is a unique situation that we don't know about, the district can handle that and address it," Banach said. "There's always going to be a unique situation, so we might as well resolve to the fact that unique situations are going to come forward."
       Board members previously questioned whether parents with middle school students that would be in different buildings would be exempted. Campbell said a total of eight families would be affected in this way, and the district would not move the eighth grade student but keep the sixth grade student in the new school in that scenario.


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