WILMINGTON — For cost savings and to maximize staffing resources, East End Elementary School may be used for the district’s preschool program only, and incoming fifth-graders would go to Denver Place Elementary instead of East End.
This proposal would help Wilmington City Schools (WCS) deal with a loss of $568,000 in education dollars, a funding cut made by the state due to the pandemic’s economic effects.
No action was taken on the East End option at a special board of education meeting Tuesday, but if the move is made the change will occur in the upcoming academic year.
The drop in state dollars will also be addressed at WCS through attrition — not replacing nine teachers who are retiring or resigning. That measure will save the district about $712,000.
But the school district is projecting dips in revenue from its income tax due to unemployment, as well as expecting to receive less casino revenue due to the economy. WCS also is hearing the state will further cut education for the upcoming school year, and that it may be three times the amount as the first round of cuts.
And though WCS is supposed to get about $677,000 of CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act money, those funds are not meant for personnel salaries and benefits.
WCS Superintendent Melinda “Mindy” McCarty-Stewart said the district is able to make teaching reductions through attrition and yet have class sizes in all elementary schools no higher than 23 students per class because the school district has experienced a steady decline in enrollment.
And at the high school, required core classes in math, science, and social studies can be kept at 23 to 25 students despite the staff reduction, she said.
The teaching staffs for both kindergarten and first grade will each continue to operate as 10-person teams, she said, because the children in those grades are the youngest students and particularly need smaller class sizes.
East End Elementary is the district’s oldest and smallest elementary building, and has been eyed for a decade or more for possible closure, said McCarty-Stewart at the board meeting. East End is nearly 100 years old.
The proposed partial use of East End for preschool only would enable the district to close the kitchen there because half-day preschoolers, while they get snacks, they don’t eat lunch there.
Consolidating the fifth grade from East End into Denver Place would make Denver a grades 3 through 5 building. That provides the benefit of fifth-grade teachers more conveniently collaborating with third- and fourth-grade teachers, said McCarty-Stewart.
Fifth grade “can fit nicely” into Denver, she added. Currently, Denver Place is a grades 3 and 4 building, but prior to the 2018-2019 year it was a neighborhood school housing grades K through 5.
Utilizing only part of the space at East End would give the district added flexibility going into the uncertainties of the upcoming school year stemming from the coronavirus. The extra space could be used as part of an overall strategy, said the superintendent.
That’s because it could be brought into service for keeping younger students in separate buildings, whereas fifth-graders will better understand the six-feet physical distancing requirement than younger children, McCarty-Stewart said.
Board member Kevin Snarr asked whether the public could have an opportunity to weigh in on the East End proposal, understanding an in-person public forum isn’t recommended at this time. The superintendent said officials will come up with a communication plan.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.