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Danville school reorganization plan goes back to committee

The Danville Board of Education voted Monday to send a school reorganization plan back to committee for further review, rather than approving and sending the plan on to the state level.

The board voted to have the Local Planning Committee review a plan that would make Toliver Elementary a second- through fifth-grade center; turn Hogsett Elementary into a preschool through fifth-grade center; and make Jennie Rogers Elementary home to the district’s central office.

“This doesn’t take off option number two,” said board member Susan Matherly, referring to the first reorganizing plan the Local Planning Committee has already approved.

That plan differs in that it would make Hogsett a kindergarten through first-grade center.

Board member Kate Graves broached the idea of an alternative plan during the meeting, saying that it might be the answer to a lot of concerns, specifically those people concerned with transitions, those concerned with making sure a school remained on the south side of Danville and those concerned with maintaining a presence in the downtown area.

“From all the time spent on the LPC and all the things people were discussing — their concerns on transitions, that kind of alleviated transitions; a downtown school, that put it downtown; focus on the south side of town, that solved that problem. To me the whole point of the plan we came up with long ago was to try to solve the problem — just to cut down on cost. I feel like that solved a lot of things,” Graves said.

She, along with board chair Lonnie Harp, had spoken to Eric Steva, the architect the board hired, after the last board of education meeting, when that alternative had been thrown out as a potential option.

“I just wanted to ask him if there was a way to have two K through 5 facilities. Is there a way to do that without one being bare bones? We didn’t say this is the way this is going to go,” Harp said. “We didn’t spec out anything. We sat and talked to him and asked him questions.”

Superintendent Keith Look presented them with an email sent to him by Steva with the list of potential changes to Hogsett that would bring it up to Toliver’s level.

“I’ve spent a lot of hours looking over this whole idea and how the whole community can be happy. I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights, worrying, ‘How’s this going to work out?’ If that solution might be the thing that might solve everything, I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t be happy that I would use my time to learn as much as possible and save everyone some time. The idea that there’s something negative there is offensive,” Graves said.

Look said he was concerned that there would be holes in what he needed to take back to the LPC, and he wouldn’t be able to because he wasn’t fully up-to-date on the potential plan that had been discussed.

Board member Steve Becker questioned why that plan had not been approached earlier. Graves said she thought the issue of money had been a big concern, but the addition of the nickel tax made this a possibility.

“That wasn’t money that anybody imagined we would have,” she said.

The initial arguments for restructuring the district by grade came from then-Superintendent Carmen Coleman and then-Finance Director Joy Campbell. The idea was to place all students together by grade in order to allow for for a more efficient use of teachers and distribution of resources. It also provided a way to balance out the classrooms, so some schools wouldn’t be under-filled while others were filled to capacity.

When the former Local Planning Committee approved the plan in 2014, Tim Breitenbach, a teacher at Bate and a member of the committee said it could be a “good thing” to combine teachers for each grade into one building.

“Can it be a good thing to have all our second grade teachers in one building and all our third grade teachers in one building and all our fourth grade teachers in one building? It’s got to be,” Breitenbach had said. “Financially, we can combine our teachers … that extra teacher turns into some other resource for us.”

Bate Middle School principal Sheri Satterly asked why no one is concerned with the transition from fifth to sixth grade, which is a very hard transition on students and comes with the combination of three schools.

“That concerns me — the transition from elementary school to middle school. It’s already hard enough on these kids coming from three different schools, and when they come here they’re even more ability grouped, so they’re even tighter. For me, this would lessen (the) huge transition if they’re already together,” Satterly said.

Graves said she would still like the committee to review it, as “something somewhere’s going to have to give” and it might be a plan worth looking into.

The current Local Planning Committee has met 12 times to date. For the plan to reach the Kentucky Board of Education in time to make it on the agenda for the December meeting, the Danville board must approve a plan this month. A plan does not have to be approved at the state December meeting as long as nothing changes at Toliver Elementary, which is currently being renovated to serve as a second- through fifth-grade center.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.