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Promptly at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Conneaut School Board will convene a long-awaited special meeting in the Linesville High School auditorium to vote on reconfiguring the district.

Three options presented during a Jan. 30 public hearing are on the line; if none of the three are selected but the board still wants to pursue reconfiguration, the process must begin again. According to Pennsylvania Department of Education, the closing of a school must be preceded by a recommendation by the superintendent, a public hearing and a three-month “cooling-off” period before the board can formally give the change a thumb up or thumb down.

According to PDE, the procedure must also be followed if the doors of a building will remain open but a proposed change will result in a different student population being served.

Conneaut School District is divided into three attendance areas: Conneaut Lake, Conneaut Valley and Linesville. Although minor variations exist because attendance area boundaries don’t necessarily follow municipal borders, the nine-member school board consists of three members elected by residents of each attendance area. The county’s other school districts, Crawford Central, Jamestown, PENNCREST and Titusville, all elect their board members at large, meaning that each district resident has an opportunity to vote to fill all nine school board seats.

Monday, school board members will either select one of the three options presented during the Jan. 30 public meeting or opt to maintain the present status quo. Currently Conneaut has one elementary school for students in kindergarten through grade six and one secondary school serving grades nine through 12 in each of its three attendance areas.

In September 2011, committees were formed to examine the impact of change on four primary areas: budget, curriculum, facilities and transportation. The committees included district residents, school board members, district administrators and interested parties. The committees met throughout the fall and winter, with some committees gathering up to a dozen times. Public roundtable sessions also took place.

Based on Business Manager Kara Onorato’s budget forecasts for fiscal years 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 featuring what she described as the best available estimates for salaries, retirement costs, state funding, property tax increases and transportation estimates as well as maintaining the district’s fund balance at a minimum 5 percent of the prior year’s expenditures, approximate savings were calculated for each of the three options. Final numbers were based on staffing reductions, transportation, maintenance savings on building closures and estimated state reimbursement changes resulting from building closures and staff reductions.

Superintendent Jarrin Sperry’s recommendation — also known as Option 6B — is estimated to save the district $5.9 million during the first three years following implementation if school starting times remain unchanged and $8.8 million if elementary and secondary starting times are staggered, allowing school buses to make multiple runs. No budget cuts would be required to maintain a 5 percent fund balance.

Under this option, schools would be configured as follows:

n Kindergarten through fourth grade at Conneaut Valley Elementary and Conneaut Lake Elementary;

n Grades five to eight at both Conneaut Valley and Conneaut Lake middle schools (formerly Conneaut Valley and Conneaut Lake high schools);

n All the district’s students in grades nine through 12 would be housed in a secondary complex at what is presently the district’s Linesville campus.

Board member David Schaef’s recommendation — also known as Option 1B — is estimated to save the district $6.4 million during the first three years following implementation if school starting times remain unchanged and $7.8 million if elementary and secondary starting times are staggered, allowing school buses to make multiple runs. No budget cuts would be required to maintain a 5 percent fund balance.

Under this option, schools would be configured as follows:

n Current kindergarten through sixth grade configurations in all district elementary schools;

n Grades seven through nine at Conneaut Lake Middle School (formerly Conneaut Lake High School);

n Grades 10 to 12 at Linesville High School;

n Close Conneaut Valley High School.

Schaef represents the district’s current Linesville attendance area.

Board member Carol Bocan’s recommendation — also known Option 5 (maintaining the status quo) with modifications — is the only option estimated to require budget cuts to maintain the 5 percent fund balance after the first year of implementation. During the 2013-’14 fiscal year, for example, $686,779 in cuts would be required; that number would jump to $5.1 million in cuts required to balance the 2014-’15 budget.

Under this option, schools would be configured as follows:

n Kindergarten through fifth grade in all three current elementary buildings;

n Grades six through 12 in all three current district high schools;

n Institute four-day school week;

n Pay-to-play for all student activities.

Bocan represents the district’s current Conneaut Valley attendance area.

If the board accepts one of the three available options Monday night, the district would then apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for permission to make the change. If permission is granted, plans call for the change to be in place by the beginning of the 2012-’13 school year, according to Sperry.

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mspicer@meadvilletribune.com.

 

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