SIDNEY — More than 120 Sidney City School District residents and other citizens attended the two public meetings Wednesday to learn more about the reconfiguration of the district’s students.
Superintendent Bob Humble told those in attendance for the evening presentation that he spent two hours after the noon meeting answering emails from residents who had questions about the changes.
The same Powerpoint presentation was discussed during the evening meeting. The only differences were the addition of four slides to the Powerpoint and a question and answer session was held at the end of the presentation.
The proposed reconfiguration of the district calls for kindergarten to second-second grade students to be housed at Emerson and Longfellow schools; all third- and fourth-grade students housed at Northwood; moving all fifth-graders to Sidney Middle School, which will house grades five to eight; and preschool students at Whittier School.
“We’ve had questions about whether the students at the middle school will be jammed into the building,” said Humble. “They won’t be. There’s plenty of space for them at the school.”
SMS student capacity is between 1,000 and 1,200 students. The anticipated enrollment of fifth- through eighth-grade students, said Humble, falls well below those numbers.
Curriculum Director Brooke Gessler said by having all the grade levels together, the district will be able to offer more for the gifted students. “By consolidating the grades, the enrichment program can be built differently and create a stronger program.
“We have to find a way to get our students into preschool before they attend kindergarten,” said Gessler.
Many students who attend kindergarten screening have never attended preschool, she said.
Bringing all the preschool students — both special needs and typical children — back to Sidney for classes was also discussed. Treasurer Mike Watkins said this became part of the conversation after Shelby Hills announced they would no longer provide transportation for the students and it would cost the district more to send its students to the school.
The addition of transportation costs — which is required if it’s written in the students IEP — would cost the district $12,500 more, said Watkins. And, he said, Shelby Hills administration announced the Sidney would see a 25 percent increase in costs to send the approximately 125 students with special needs and IEPs to their school.
The state requires school districts provide preschool for special needs and IEP students. The typical students who attend the preschool pay to attend the school.
“We’ve learned there’s preschool in the a county school that if the child attends preschool and then open enrolls in the school district, the parents are reimbursed the preschool costs,” said Humble. “I thinkwe’ll have more kids coming here for our preschool.”
Humble the staffing of the preschool and transportation of students are just two of the items which still has to be ironed out before it goes to the board of education for approval.
Humble said existing SCS staff members — who have the correct certification — could be teaching the preschool program.
“Shelby Hills teachers are no more specially trained than our teachers,” said Humble. “They have pre-K certification and our staff has it also. Our teachers are just as trained as theirs are.”
The additional information presented during the evening session included:
How might the preschool be set up?
• 3 hour, 15 minute instructionally-driven day.
• Banded ages – 3 to 4 year olds and 4 to 5 year olds.
• 11 classrooms, each with a morning and afternoon session.
• 1 teacher, 1 aide per class up to 16 students. Of those students 6 to8 will have IEPs and up to 8 to 10 typical students.
• Because of needs changing throughout the year, flexibility will be used to accommodate students — early interventions, move-ins, student evaluations, etc.
I have kids that will be at various elementary schools. Will the start/end times be the same?
• Anticipate staggered start/end times between the different grade level schools.
• Details will be released up board review.
What will transportation look like?
• Students living outside of the 2-mile radius of their potential school for 2019-20 will have transportation.
• The district is exploring various transportation options and hope to communicate a plan as soon as they are able.
Where will you get the staff for the SCS preschool?
• The reconfiguration of the district will allow administrators to allocate the current staff to meet the needs of an inhouse preschool.
• The potential staff is qualified to fill these positions because they hold the appropriate licenses.
• As with the existing K-12 positions, the district will continue to work to meet the teachers’ professional learning needs.
During the question and answer session, the administrators were asked:
How many students will be in each classroom? No more than 25 students in K-1; no more than 26 in grades 2-4; and 24 to 25 in the middle school grades. Gessler said, because of the ways the buildings are currently set up, some classes have 17 students while others in another building might have 27 students in the class.
Shelby Hills has great reputation with gold star standards, said one parent. Sidney has an F on the state report card for dealing with special needs students. How will this affect the students?
“Shelby Hills reputation is based on different standards than how the state rates us,” said Humble. “I’m not making excuses for the F but we need to get the kids in here sooner so we know what their needs are sooner. This will help us in grades K-12.”
The audience was informed that funding for preschool students with an IEP goes to the student’s school district of residence. If Sidney offers a preschool program, and the parent opts not to send them there, the state funding doesn’t follow the student to another school or district.
“A parent could send a child with a disability to another school. But I don’t know if the school would taken them since the funds don’t follow them (like it does in grades K-12),” said Humble.
Humble said he hopes the plans are finalized by May 1 so parents can be informed of what will happen during the 2019-20 school year.
A Shelby Hills staff member took exception with how the district was portraying the money received from the state of Ohio for the preschool funding. She said Shelby Hills “wasn’t sending you a bill in the mail. We lost funding and that’s why our bill to you is going up.”
Watkins said the half million dollars from the state comes into SCS’s account and those funds are used to pay Shelby Hills.
“The additional $500,000 we would be charged (from Shelby Hills) means its unreasonable for us to keep it as it is,” said Watkins.
When asked to clarify the issue Thursday morning, Watkins said, “It’s accurate that it is state funding but it is Sidney City Schools preschool special needs funding and we choose to contract with Shelby Hills for that service so the funding is transferred to Shelby Hills. Some districts contract with the local ESC for preschool services and others educate those preschool aged students within their program.
“So while it is state funding, it is Sidney City School’s state funding and we are to decide how to use those funds to educate our preschool special needs students,” said Watkins.
Humble said typical students attending SCS preschool will pay tuition similar to what they do at Shelby Hills.
“We want to take as many kids as we can,” said Humble.
Both presentations were streamed live on YouTube. Approximately 50 people watched the noon live stream, while 80 watched the evening live stream. There have been more than 1,200 views of the presentations, which can be seen on YouTube at https://bit.ly/2RIhK5V.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.