WILMINGTON — More details were given at a public forum Tuesday regarding the possible creation of grade-level centers at Wilmington’s three elementary schools, including a new transportation model to accommodate the switch.
A grade-level center would group children together by grade level instead of geography.
Currently, the children at Denver Place, East End and Holmes Elementary Schools range in grades from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Wilmington City Schools (WCS) Superintendent Mindy McCarty-Stewart said concerns about how children will respond to three building changes during grades K through 5 have resonated with district officials, who propose student transition days and parent orientation to alleviate matters.
The new transportation model, called “Carousel Rotation,” has pluses, said WCS Business Director Curt Bone. Those include: It does not require a shuttle system (child does not have to ride two different buses); average ride times for students will be about the same; parents will have 20 to 30 minutes of flexibility time to drop off and pick up students at extra buildings; and siblings will ride the same bus (one stop at a house).
One minus to the new transportation model is that students in elementary school walk zones, but who do not attend that school, will have to catch an assigned bus to their school building.
After presentations were given from a number of district officials, forum attendees took part in small-group discussions where they could ask questions or raise concerns that were recorded by a note-taker. Those concerns led to wrap-up questions answered by McCarty-Stewart in front of the entire audience.
At one small-group discussion table, local attorney and parent Chaley Peelle Griffith said while she is not for the change, she is less against it than she was at first. She also said if the point is to combat the comparatively low scores on state-standardized tests, then doing something is better than doing nothing.
“Doing nothing is not going to change anything [regarding academic performance] in my opinion,” she said.
At the same table, Kathie Mueller said her son bought a house just two months ago near Denver Place Elementary School, but under the proposal, her grandchildren will go to different schools. She said she likes neighborhood schools.
Laura Struve was part of the same small group. On Monday she told the News Journal, “I guess I just feel the district hasn’t done their homework.” She also said, “I think people are concerned that this decision isn’t being made with the full input of the community.”
Toward the close of the forum, McCarty-Stewart said there is a need to assess where the district is at, to “look at some hard data, look at the report card data and [economically disadvantaged] demographics. That’s hard to do, but it is our truth and it’s where we’re at today in this community.”
Taking time to assess things, she added, can also involve “looking at what our goals and aspirations are, and what we want for our students.”
She acknowledged she loves the concept of grade-level centers, but also said she would not make the change come what may.
The WCS superintendent believes the structure of grade-level centers helps the district facilitate best practices in the most equitable and efficient way possible for its students.
The next community forum on grade-level centers will be held 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21 in the WHS auditeria.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.
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