Committee says: No change

Gwen Chamberlain
Penn Yan Middle School

The committee studying the potential for reconfiguration of classes within the Penn Yan Central School District’s buildings is recommending that no changes be made to the class configurations without extensive research.

Facing declining enrollment and the potential for a gap in excess of $3.3 million as the 2012-’13 budget process looms, the school board members received a report from the committee on Dec. 7, but took no action.

Board President Jeff Morehouse said the board may give the committee additional direction and ask it to reconvene.

“This will not be a rushed process,” he said in response to comments within the report that some committee members feel the school board is rushing the process.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Superintendent David Hamilton stressed there has been no decision made. “A decision of that importance will require much more time, discussion and research in the coming months before the board is prepared to act,” he said.

The comments included at the end of the report also said the school board’s priorities should be, “Children first, then programs, then cost savings.”

The committee, which began meeting in the spring, included:

• Four teachers from each building,

• One staff person from each building

• Five administrators

• Two Board of Education members

• Two parents of students from each building

• Three community members

• Two students from the middle school

• Two students from the academy.

The committee’s charge was to review multiple options for class configurations. Right now, the elementary school houses children in Pre-K through grade 5, students in grades six through eight attend classes in the middle school and students in grades nine through 12 are housed in the academy.

Other configurations  discussed by the committee were:

• Pre-K through grade four in the elementary school; five through eight in the middle school; nine through 12 in the academy

• Pre-K through grade six in the elementary school; seven and eight in the middle school; nine through 12 in the academy.

• Pre-K through grade six in the elementary school; seven through 12 in the academy.

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Curriculum Howard Dennis presented the report and pointed out that the committee members did not agree that there is a need to reduce the number of transitions students go through (changing from one building to another). The report says the transitions can be considered as times for students to grow.

When the committee made its top three choices from the six options, the one that would move sixth grade to the elementary school and seventh and eighth grades to the academy, mothballing the classrooms in the middle school was the fourth choice.

The committee says the current configuration is educationally sound and recent capital projects indicate community and board support for using all three buildings. “This model supports the development of the whole child,” said comments in the report.

Committee members felt the option housing just seventh and eighth grades in the middle school might free up space in that building for district offices, special education and alternative education. The committee said this option might not provide enough space for sixth grade special education needs.

In 2005, the school district’s enrollment was nearly 2,000. Since then it has steadily declined to today’s 1,628, according to Assistant Superintendent for business Doug Tomandl.