BEDFORD — The difficult work of school consolidation didn’t end with the vote last week that approved closing four elementary schools and a middle school in North Lawrence Community Schools.
With seven months until the 2020-21 school year starts, NLCS administrators are moving quickly to make sure everything is ready when students and faculty return to schools that will look very different from the way they look now.
Bus routes, boundary lines for school districts and many support staff, faculty and administrators will change as the corporation realigns its buildings to better serve students and reduce costs in the face of declining enrollment and population trends.
NLCS Superintendent Ty Mungle will discuss the timeline for the many tasks that lie ahead Thursday at the NLCS board meeting, which will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Administration Building, 460 W St.
The NLCS board approved a consolidation plan Jan. 6, voting 4-3 to close Fayetteville, Heltonville, Springville and Stalker elementary schools and Shawswick Middle School. Schools that will remain open are Bedford Middle School, Oolitic Middle School, Parkview Primary and Intermediate, Lincoln Elementary, Dollens Elementary, Needmore and Shawswick Elementary.
Mungle told the Times-Mail this week he plans to name the new building administrators Thursday. The realigned buildings will have a principal and assistant principal assigned to them.
Next week, NLCS teachers will receive a survey asking them to rank their priorities by grade level, subject and school building. They will also include their certifications. From there, Mungle said the goal will be to best match faculty with their teaching strengths and preferences to the needs of each school.
“For our employees, it’s beneficial to know who the building administrators will be,” he said. “We’re surveying all the teachers so we can look at our staffing needs for each building.”
For example, Mungle said just how many teachers are needed for each grade level and subject specific teachers in areas such as science, art and music won’t be known until after school districts are redrawn and firm enrollment levels are known.
The survey is going to all teachers, not just those in the schools that will be closed, said Mungle.
Mungle said faculty should know their teaching assignments by March.
Attrition through retirement and faculty leaving for other jobs happens each year and Mungle is optimistic that staffing levels will align with the new configuration of schools.
Boundaries are changing as NLCS determines where students from the closing schools will be attending. Some, such as Heltonville, are already determined, as those students will attend Shawswick Elementary. But students at Fayetteville, Springville and Stalker won’t know until new boundary lines are set.
Mungle said those new districts are being worked on and a preliminary map should be introduced Thursday at the meeting.
He said there will be opportunities for the community to look at the redrawn district lines and offer feedback.
“We’re looking at having a couple of evenings for people to look at the maps, if they want to talk to me about their concerns they can do that,” he said.
NLCS is in deficit spending, meaning its per student reimbursement from the state is less than its per pupil spending.
Mungle said the savings of consolidation will be realized over time as fixed costs for building expenses such as insurance, security, HVAC, utilities and maintenance are reduced.
“Savings is our long-term goal but our primary goal is to reallocate the money we will save to provide more services and opportunities to our students and better pay for our teachers,” Mungle said.
The consolidation process was not without controversy as members of the public attended school board meetings voicing their opposition to the plan or or urging the district leadership to phase in the changes over time.
As difficult as the process has been, Mungle said the corporation would be challenged to maintain financial solvency if changes were not made.
“The future is bright and the students of North Lawrence Community Schools will be provided a better education and more opportunities when we’re not spread so thin.”