For the second month in a row, the Clark County Board of Education board room overflowed Tuesday with a group of concerned parents seeking answers about proposed moves of students into different facilities for the 2013 school year.
Last month, it was parents of Pilot View, Central and Fannie Bush elementary students concerned over where their children would attend elementary school next year when the new elementary school opens.
Tuesday, the parents were there to voice their concerns to the school board about the district’s plan to merge students from Conkwright and Clark middle schools into the current George Rogers Clark High School building after the new high school opens next August.
About seven parents spoke to the board and chief among their concerns was that the merger was happening too quickly and without enough advance planning.
“I am extremely, extremely concerned about the speed at which this consolidation is happening. I’m really shocked and I think most parents in here are, that we are moving this quickly,” Melissa Hounshell, a parent of a seventh grade student, said.
Melissa Dean, a Conkwright Middle School parent, said she just recently learned that the merger of the two schools was going to occur in the fall of 2013, and while she regrets she hadn’t attended any of the meetings leading up to the vote on the merger, she had been to some recent academic steering committee meetings since and was frustrated with the lack of answers to her questions.
“After I attended the past two, and only two, academic steering committee meetings for the combined middle schools, I now have the determination to stand up for what I believe is right for our children in Clark County,” Dean said. “I attended the first meeting expecting to hear concrete plans for the combined middle school... I was flabbergasted to learn the steering committee... has no decision-making authority in any way, the principal and site-based council for the school have not been determined and won’t be until the spring of 2013, and there has been no concrete information about how or when the decisions will be made about curriculum, staffing, acceleration, remediation or discipline.”
The lack of answers to questions about the curriculum, especially the accelerated program, at the merged school also frustrated many of the parents.
Hounshell, whose children participate in the magnet program at Conkwright, said her son keeps asking if the program will be available at the new school and she can’t answer him.
“When I come in the afternoon my son asks me, ‘Mom, is there going to be a magnet program?’ and I don’t have an answer for him. I’m asking you to give me an answer. Will there be a magnet program? Will there be a SOAR program?” Hounshell said. “These kids have strived for this. They should be rewarded and at least they have earned the respect of an answer... They need to know. We are nine weeks in and we need answers. That’s all I’m asking, is for better communication.”
James Martin, the father of five children that will be impacted by the merge, read statistics from several national groups that show the benefits of smaller school settings over larger ones asked the board to consider all the facts before moving forward.
“The bottom line is this. The justification for merging and consolidating schools to save taxpayer money is simply untrue. I would ask the board to take these facts into account and the will of the people at large and to please slow the process down,” Martin said.
Board chairwoman Judy Hicks thanked the parents for coming and invited them a public forum the board is hosting on the middle school merger Tuesday, Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. at the central office, where their questions and concerns can be discussed.
The board also Tuesday approved by a 4-1 vote, with Mike Kuduk voting no and B.J. Swope abstaining, for a grades Kindergarten-2 and 3-5 configuration for all five district elementary schools beginning with the 2014-2015 school year.
In other business the board:
— Approved a proposal spearheaded by students at the Clark Day Treatment Program to change the name of the alternative school to the Phoenix Academy.
— Heard a report from Chief Academic Officer Mark Thomas on the SACS accreditation process for the district.
— Heard the second month attendance update from Administrative Director Barbara Disney.
— Joined Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham and Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner in proclaiming the week of Oct. 21-27 as Safe Schools Week.
Contact Bob Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.