Editor’s Note: The following was published in the Big Walnut Local School District’s publication The Eagle Examiner:
As our community continues to grow, we continue to work to stay ahead of the growth. The opening of our new elementary allows us the opportunity to consider options with what is best educationally for students (our first priority), alongside how we can best use our existing spaces and limited resources as we continue to grow.
Our new plan in 2020-21 is to pull the preschool units out of the other elementaries and place them into one location: HSE. Right now these units are spread throughout the district along with their resources. This makes it challenging for students and staff. If we consolidate, we will see many educational benefits. These include: standardization of programs (specials, etc.); central location for related services; space at elementary buildings for growth; opportunities for preschool teachers to collaborate; possibility for tiered intervention; possibility for age/developmental grouping; creation of unique preschool culture and procedures geared toward age group; streamlining of ODE/Step-Up-To-Quality paperwork (currently done in each building); and growth potential for tuition-based, full-day daycare and/or economically disadvantaged preschool units.
Additionally, by moving the preschool classrooms from the elementary schools, we essentially shift open space to those buildings.
With consolidating the preschool units, we will eliminate the need to add 10.5 positions that would be needed if we changed nothing and continued with our existing model and simply went from four to five elementaries (principal, secretary, intervention specialists, etc.). Additionally, we would not need to add preschool administrative staff, as we would plan to relocate a central office administrator and administrative assistant who are already working with preschool. By making these changes, we should save a minimum of $500,000 in our annual operating budget.
The idea to consolidate the preschool is not a new one. Instead, we are proposing to move up the timeline for this to occur (2020-21). The district was previously planning to consolidate the preschool units in 2023-24, when BWI reopens as an elementary. Our Facilities Committee (FC) and Academic Advisory Council (AAC), two community-based advisory groups, were given an opportunity to weigh in on this new plan. Both groups were supportive of this revised plan.
When we open new buildings or change building configurations, it usually is necessary to go through a redistricting process, in which elementary boundaries are redrawn to achieve the right number of students in each building. Once we determine how many students and sections of grades are needed in each building, we will go through a process of assigning principals and staff to the buildings. We are making the decision on HSE now, as the number of K-4 buildings will obviously impact elementary redistricting. We plan to begin redistricting, with input from a community-based committee, in late summer.
While change is always hard, we are happy that we can offer a solution that is educationally best for students, while keeping the HSE building open and saving operational dollars.
If you have any concerns or questions, please reach out. We are always happy to discuss your concerns.