Reorganization research for elementary schools to cease

Published 8:17 pm Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Elizabethton City Schools administration announced Wednesday that plans to study the reorganization of elementary schools within the district would be tabled.
According to Director of Schools Dr. Corey Gardenhour, conversations between the Federal Programs Directors at ECS and the Tennessee Department of Education have the school system feeling confident West Side Elementary will be approved for a waiver to continue its school-wide federal funding program.
“We want our parents to know that this is a big issue, and we decided to study the issue, and that took us to Nashville for answers,” Gardenhour said. “We have been working double time, trying to look at starting a study to address the issues that could possibly happen.”
Funding was looking to be an issue due to the school’s number of directly certified students – students whose families qualify for assistance – dropping below the 40 percent threshold of the school population.
West Side was grandfathered in for the 2017-18 school year but was set to lose federal funding for the next academic season. During the application process in February, ECS was denied a waiver for the financing at West Side due to the school already being grandfathered in for monies.
“We would have been approved when we applied for the waiver last Spring, but were denied based on the fact WSE would be grandfathered in for one year,” John Hutchins, ECS Federal Programs director, said in a statement issued to the Elizabethton Star.
Following recent talks with the state’s department of education, Hutchins added the school system would apply for a waiver again this year and it “seems likely that we will be approved.”
Before this week’s announcement, the Board of Education was researching the possibility of reorganization of Elizabethton elementary schools by grade level: Kindergarten-1, 2-3, and 4-5 instead of the current format. The goal, according to the district, was to prevent WSE from losing all or most of its federal funding, which would have impacted the school’s intervention program, teacher training and supplemental classroom materials.
“WSE continues to receive funding as a schoolwide school, but at a reduced rate, based on the lower percentage of directly certified students,” said Hutchins. “In order to fund the interventionist that was lost, ECS will have to look at making some budget changes.”
Gardenhour said he appreciated the support from the state, the board and the community during the process before Wednesday’s news.
“At this point, our state government has worked with us, hand-in-hand, to make sure we have what we need to take care of our children,” he added. “We’re so thankful our Board is willing to look at issues on how they relate to our students. We’re also grateful our state government has worked with us to make sure have a workable solution.”
Gardenhour added the goal moving forward is to have a Math and Reading interventionist like the other two elementary schools in the system already have in place. The Board is expected to restructure the budget to bring back the interventionist position that was cut this year.
ECS added that information regarding the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) continues to be rolled out to districts as the state receives guidance and more information will be made available when possible.

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