SIDNEY — The proposal for Sidney City School’s reconfiguration was approved during Monday night’s Board of Education meeting.
The 5-0 vote by board members means beginning with the 2019-20 school year, preschool students currently educated at Shelby Hills will be brought back to the district and yaught at Whittier Elementary School.
Other changes associated with the plan calls for all kindergarten to second-grade students to be taught at either Longfellow or Emerson Elementary Schools. All third- and fourth-graders will be taught at Northwood Elementary School. Sidney Middle School will now be home to all fifth- through eighth-grade students.
Prior to the vote, five district residents spoke out against the proposal during the public participation portion of the meeting.
“As a taxpayer, I’m worried about the change,” said Susan Kinsella, of Sidney. “Money is being spent on an older building (Whittier)” to prepare it for the preschool students.
Shelby Hills, she said, already has all the bathrooms needed, is air conditioned and has the toys and equipment needed for the special needs students.
“Shelby County is very lucky to have Shelby Hills,” said Kinsella. “I don’t understand why you’d want to take it away from the kids.”
Chod and Amanda Dagenfield, of Maplewood, also spoke out against moving too quickly with the proposal.
“We’re going to be laying off teachers whether it’s at Shelby Hills or Sidney City Schools,” said Chod. “And that’s not easy to talk about. With the reconfiguration, you’re going to be overstaffed without the preschool students.”
When discussing financing the proposal, Chod feels some of the items don’t have hard numbers to support the change.
Chod claims it will cost the district approximately $100,000 to run the preschool. If the preschool stays at Shelby Hills, and the reduction of 25 staff members due to the reconfiguration is factored in, the district will be saving $625,000 per year, if the average staff salary is $45,000 per year totalling $1,125,000.
“I’m challenging the speed of this,” said Chod. “There has only been five days between the proposal communication meeting and this board meeting where there is a vote. There’s still a lot of open ended questions: what will be the funding costs? What will be the renovation costs?
“It’s hard for me to support this,” he continued. “There were two meetings between Sidney City Schools and Shelby Hills. The first meeting was Shelby Hills telling the changes for the costs and the second was Sidney City Schools saying they were moving the preschool in house.
“I request you to delay the vote,” he concluded. “Let’s vet all the options and decide what’s best for the kids.”
Amanda quoted statements made by Superintendent Bob Humble in an article in the Sept. 4, 2018, issue of the Sidney Daily News where he stated he’s “All about the kids.”He discussed the age of the buildings and how none of them are air conditioned and “are not designed for the way kids learn today.”
She said her unanswered questions include who will contract with the therapist for the students; what about busing; what about Whittier renovations needed for the preschool program; and what is the cost for the teachers to get intervention training.
“Why are you rushing such an important decision?” she asked. “If you wait until the 2020-21 school year, you’ll have time for the renovation (at Whittier), training for the teachers and IEP training and meetings. You are rushing into a decision that’s not best for our preschool students.
“I’m asking you to hear our voices and allow more time for this. Seven months is too short of a time especially for students with IEPs.”
Christina Mullennix, of Sidney, said she is the “face of the low income family” for Sidney City Schools. She questioned how much the preschool program will cost parents.
“The latchkey program is not affordable,” said Mullennix. “What will the cost be for a typical kid?”
She said for the reconfiguration to succeed, the busing has to be in place.
“I may be poor, but I’m not ignorant,” said Mullennix. “You may need us in the end.”
Jason McLain, business operations director, said he is working with the transportation coordinator and his secretary, who is the former transportation coordinator, about busing for the 2019-20 school system.
“We want to expand busing as much as we can,” said McLain. “We want to provide more opportunities for parents to use busing.”
McLain said busing for the upcoming school year is usually completed in July. Because of the changes with the reconfiguration, they are working on the routes now.
“We’re going to use One Call in February to the parents to let them know what routes are available,” said McLain. “Parents with students in K-12 will have the opportunity to know right now for a way to plan (for the new school year).”
The routes, he said, will be finalized in July. He also said on the school’s website there will be a map that shows the changes in the routes for next year. The map should be on the website by the end of the week.
McLain said the district is also considering shuttle bus type system for students who live outside the 2 mile area.
“The shuttles will be used for a year as a transition,” said Humble. “We’ll also have staggered starting times for the buildings” which will help parents who have students at multiple buildings.
After listening to the comments, board President Bob Smith addressed those present.
“I like the passion that has come out in the community,” said Smith about the proposed changes and community response. “All board members are passionate about the kids and their education. We have 3,300 students and we have to do what’s best for all of them. We have to be fiscally responsible. We know that changes are hard.
“Superintendent Humble had looked at doing the changes over multiple years, but our hand was forced,” Smith continued. “When we gave them a timeline, we were told it wasn’t acceptable.”
Smith said he has heard concerns that the plan will fail.
“We want to offer the same quality of education to the younger children in the district,” said Smith. “We are going to learn during the process. There’s going to be some adjustments. We want to do what’s best for Sidney City Schools and its students.”