April 25, 2014

Elyria
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North Ridgeville schools to ‘cluster’ students next year

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — There will be a major shift of elementary school-age students in this district for next fall.

With the Board of Education approving a plan to “cluster” students at one of two elementary schools by grade level, families will be adjusting to a new busing schedule and start and dismissal times for the school day, according to William Greene, executive director of business services for North Ridgeville Schools.

The “clustering” plan calls for all second- and third-graders to attend Liberty Elementary starting in the fall, while Wilcox Elementary will be the school for all fourth- and fifth-graders.

“Clustering” was favored by officials over a proposal for changing boundaries or redistricting of the two elementary schools to try and achieve a more equal distribution of students between them.

“The two buildings are comparable in size and the balance of students should be comparable as well,” Greene said.

Wilcox was built in the 1950s, while Liberty was constructed in 1976.

The changes will level out the classroom sizes, particularly in the elementary schools where there’s been an influx of students.

After the changes, there will be an average of 27 children in each classroom, down from the average of 30 now at both Liberty and Wilcox.

“We have approximately 300 students per grade in K to 12, give or take 10 or 15,” Greene said.

Those averages are below the approximately 550 second- through fifth-graders now attending Liberty Elementary, and the 700-plus second- through fifth-graders enrolled at Wilcox Elementary.

Wilcox is projected to have 760 students next school year. Each building was designed to hold between 420 and 440 students.

School officials favored “clustering” over changing boundaries for the two schools over concerns that any significant level of homebuilding in the future could produce more pupils and lead to further boundary changes to keep enrollments balanced at both elementary buildings, Greene said.

Administrators met Monday with the district’s Transportation Department and plan to meet with building principals Wednesday to begin the process of figuring out the mechanics of shifting grade levels between schools, and adjusting bus routes and school starting and ending times to accommodate the changes.

Officials hope to have revised transportation plans set by July, Greene said.

The district recently opted to pursue $9.3 million in state funds to help build a proposed $52 million school for third- through eighth-graders to ease crowding at the current middle school.

Built in 1923, the building has a projected enrollment of 960 for the 2013-14 school year, about 180 more than the 780 students it was built to hold.

Voters would have to approve a $40 million-plus bond issue for the new school.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.