Moon Area considering redistricting, restructuring elementaries

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Frigid weather — with temperatures in the single digits — is the likely explanation for the small crowd and no audience participation Monday night as Moon Area superintendent Curt Baker presented details about elementary building capacity and future space requirements.

The elementary capital improvement program has many Crescent and Moon parents upset because plans could entail closing one or more schools. Directors requested the program because of aging K-4 facilities and empty or poorly utilized classroom space.

Redistricting and the proposal of a K-2 and 3-4 grade-level configuration also has some parents concerned.

Directors discussed which of the scenarios might be dropped in order to provide guidance to Mr. Baker in making a final administrative recommendation.

Director Jerry Testa suggested administrators jettison the grade-realignment proposal because of an abundance of parents who contacted him with concerns. But Scott Larue disagreed, saying that until the budget process is further along, the board was not at a point to take anything off the table.

“No matter what we do, we’ll have to redistrict,” said Mike Olszewski, board president.

Currently, 25 of the 116 elementary classrooms, or 21.5 percent, are not being used by the 1,361 students who occupy the district’s five elementary school buildings.

According to Mr. Baker, who is basing the numbers on “time in use,” the elementaries are currently operating at a 78 percent capacity and average 15 students per classroom.

To demonstrate what he referred to as “hurricane forecasting” of the elementary student population, Mr. Baker increased the maximum student numbers projected by the Stewman Demographics LLC study by an additional 25 per year through 2022.

His “super max” totals require 120 classrooms with average class sizes of 15 by 2022. Using that same year’s numbers and average class sizes increased to 20, there would be a need for 90 classrooms. An average class of 25 would require 72.

The Stewman demographic numbers were provided to the district in August 2013.

As the board works toward its decision, there will be chances for public discussion at three more meetings.

On Feb. 10, Mr. Baker will discuss redistricting options and alternatives and instructional ramifications. The Feb. 24 presentation will involve financial and operational implications.

On March 3, the district will post the administration's final recommendation. A public hearing on the plan will be March 10. The final board decision is scheduled for June 23.

Sonja Reis, freelance writer:

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