Options for Batesville school restructuring presented to public

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Batesville School District officials presented two different options for restructuring the district's elementary schools to the public Monday night.

The district's 3-5 year goal is to reduce its footprint so they can save money.

That means getting rid of two of their eight campuses. The campuses they want to get off the books are the current preschool on Lyon Street and the White River Academy, which is an alternative learning center, on Park Street.

Both options include repurposing Central Elementary into a preschool.

"Central is our most crowded and smallest school, so they'll actually have better class sizes when they do this, when they go to some other school," Batesville Superintendent Dr. Michael Hester said.

Option one spreads all of the Kindergarten through fifth-grade students between Eagle Mountain, West, and Sulphur Rock elementary, which would continue the magnet school concept.

The students would be moved to the new schools in Aug. 2018 and the new preschool would open in Aug. 2019 if this option is chosen.

"It's the least movement," Dr. Hester said. "Parents like a K-5. It's one less transition than the other plan. It's got more advantages for everybody on it so option one is where we're leaning."

Option two splits Kindergarten through third-grade students between Eagle Mountain and West Elementary schools. Those two schools would focus on reading.

The fourth and fifth grade would then be moved to Sulphur Rock, which would offer all of the magnet curriculum and trips for those kids.

This option takes an extra year to complete, meaning schools wouldn't change until 2019. The preschool would then open at Central in Aug. 2020.

Dr. Hester doesn't like this plan as much because it is not as convenient for students east of Batesville.

"We're gaining students from the east side of town because smaller school districts are losing numbers and they're coming to us," Dr. Hester said. "If we keep Sulphur Rock K-5, Sulphur Rock's a nice option for them to come to versus driving all the way into Batesville."

Moving into Central also gives the preschool room to expand, adding programs for infants and toddlers.

"And that's a huge need in our town is childcare," Dr. Hester said. "We're also looking at reducing the cost, like taking some of the money we save and passing it on to the parents."

To make these elementary changes possible, the sixth grade will move out of elementary and into the junior high.

Ninth grade will then move out of junior high and into the high school.

"I need 10 to 12 rooms and I've got 20 to 25 available, so we can do that very easily," Dr. Hester said about the excess room in the high school.

The main goal of these changes is to find $1 million in savings to add to teacher salaries.

"We are last in 5A in most categories with our teacher pay and we're fourth out of five public schools in Independence County and so we're trying to compete for teachers," Dr. Hester said. "There's a shortage and there's a real competition for trying to get good teachers."

Right now, parents are being asked to go to the Batesville School District's website.

Under the frequently asked questions tab, you can look at these options and give feedback.

Dr. Hester said the Batesville School Board can make a decision at any of the three board meetings between now and February.

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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