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Schools consider shuffling grades
By Chris Strunk
Last Updated: March 16, 2017

It won't happen next school year, but plans are in the works to change grade configurations in the Valley Center school district.

The school board is expected to vote this summer on a proposal that would make West, Abilene and Wheatland elementaries home to pre-kindergarten through third-grade students, move fourth and fifth grades to the intermediate school and add sixth grade to the middle school's seventh and eighth grades.

The proposal calls for no changes at the high school.

Though in its infancy, the proposal could be implemented for the 2018-19 school year.

It "is the most fiscally viable option" to handle district growth, Superintendent Cory Gibson said. "It does not cost another bond issue for quite some time … unless we see the growth of Goddard or Maize."

The district has grown by nearly 30 percent in the past 25 years, up to 2,900 students this year.

With the latest bond issue, the district is adding classrooms at Abilene, Wheatland, the intermediate school and the middle school.

"There are pros and cons," Gibson said. "But the pros vastly outweigh the cons."

The proposal provides space to decrease class sizes, gives flexibility to increase programs, aligns with educational purpose, and aligns with educational training and licensure of staff, Gibson said.

If the proposal is approved, the district would form parent-staff transition teams and begin discussing educational planning, program offerings, staffing needs and changes, scheduling, food service, transportation, technology and a relocation plan.

Proactively and efficiently handling growth has been a priority for board members since the 2008 bond issue that led to the construction of a new high school at 93rd and Meridian. The latest bond issue includes facility upgrades and some classroom additions.

"I don't want our district to be caught like Goddard and Andover … building a new school every two or three years," said board member Brad Barbour.

Barbour asked if the high school is still able to handle student increases.

"We're good for quite some time, several years," Gibson said.

The district's current configuration is West, Abilene and Wheatland up to fourth grade, fifth and sixth at the intermediate school, seventh and eighth at the middle school and ninth through 12th at the high school.

After the 2008 bond issue work, the district changed to the current configuration. Previously, Wheatland housed fourth and fifth grades, while the middle school had six through eight.

Gibson said he wanted to take time to plan for changes and communicate with the community.

"I don't want to do it in a haphazard way," he said. "Let's take a year to plan it."

In other business March 13, the board:

•Learned that state Rep. Steve Huebert and Sen. Carolyn McGinn were invited to attend the April school board meeting to provide an update on the state legislative session.

•Approved a gift of $90 for transportation on an Abilene second-grade field trip to Exploration Place.

•Approved the disposal of a unused library books at Abilene and West.

•Approved the disposal of a reach-in freezer.

•Approved a 2017-18 articulation agreement with Butler Community College.

•Approved a 2017-18 agreement with Mid-America Orthopedics for athletic trainer services.

•Approved a request to give Molly Rainey, food service director, a district credit card.

•Approved an out-of-state travel request for up to five members of the chess team attending the national competition in Nashville, Tenn., May 11 through 15.

•Heard a report from Jim McNiece, Kansas Board of Education member.

•Heard a report from the Wheatland Elementary Site Council.

•Approved policy updates as recommended by the Kansas Association of School Boards.

•Approved the purchase of Traversa bus-routing software.

•Accepted a bid of $1.236 from Hellas turf company to install artificial turf on two practice fields at the high school. The turf will be installed this summer and be ready for fall practices. Mid America submitted a bid of $1.275 million. The turf will come with an eight-year warranty. The district has budgeted $1.6 million for the project.

•Approved five new staffing additions for 2017-18. They include a college and career liaison at the middle school to help with individual plans of study, an HVAC/maintenance technician, a district-wide social worker, an interventionist at the high school and a part-time translator and secretary. The additions will cost about $200,000.

•Accepted a supplemental contract resignation from Jens Danielsen (high school football assistant coach, May 23).

•Approved the hiring of Grant Figueroa (grounds, $10.05 per hour, March 6), Jacob Meyer (computer support technician at the high school, $12.35 per hour, March 16), Sarah Ingle (first-grade teacher at West, $38,880, Aug. 10), Karl Ely (PE teacher at the middle school and Abilene, $50,071, Aug. 10), Colton Durham (social studies teacher at the middle school, $38,880, Aug. 10), Bailey Burgess (counselor at the middle school, $41,649, Aug. 1) and Tia Massey (fourth-grade teacher at West, $41,555, Aug. 10).

•Accepted resignations from Jose Vargas (computer support technician at the middle school, March 1), Kami Terwilliger (kindergarten aide at West, April 13), Courtney Hiebert (counselor at the middle school, May 23) and Tracy Cook (fourth-grade teacher at West, May 23).

•Approved transfers for Jessica Clabaugh (food service, from five hours per day to seven hours per day, March 13), Brandy Minshall (food service, from seven hours per day to five hours per day, March 13), Amy Zwetow (from third-grade teacher at Abilene to ESOL coordinator, Aug. 1), Lorie Schaller (from third-grade teacher at West to fourth-grade teacher at West, Aug. 14) and Amy McDaniel (from third-grade teacher at West to third-grade teacher at Abilene, Aug. 14).

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