By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
Easton Valley School District officials have decided where students will attend classes when the Preston and East Central school districts combine for the new district’s first school year.
Superintendent Bob Lagerblade presented a number of options and goals for school board members to consider when determining where to send students. Board members were advised to consider the space, if the space is conducive to the age groups, the cost saving or expenditures caused by placement, whether the space would help or hinder teacher assignments and professional growth and the Iowa Core requirements.
The first option was to send pre-kindergarten through third grade students to schools in both Miles and Preston, to have grades four through eight in Miles and grades nine through 12 in Preston. However, because of the possibility that the number of students in each grade would be uneven, the plan’s incompatibility with the Iowa Core and the need for middle school teachers to travel, Lagerblade did not recommend this option.
Lagerblade also presented an option to have pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade students in Miles and seventh through 12th grades in Preston. The second option was a better use of space, decreased teacher travel time and was more in line with the Iowa Core. To further bring the district in line with the Iowa Core, Lagerblade said the district could put the sixth through eighth grade students in the same building.
“Kids will adjust. We need to provide the best possible instruction and curriculum we can,” Lagerblade said.
Residents concerned about where students would attend school in the newly formed district packed the East Central School gym as the board made decisions regarding school assignments and other decisions the board would make. A handful shared their feelings about the student placement with board members and asked questions about the impacts.
In the end, board members decided to send the elementary students, those in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, to the Miles School. Sixth- through eighth-grade students will attend school at Preston Elementary and ninth through 12th grade students will be sent to Preston High School.
During the discussion of what should be done with the district’s various buildings, Lagerblade recommended the Sabula building should be closed. It has seven large classrooms in the new part that would be ideal for education, Lagerblade explained. However, the rest of the building needs considerable upgrading and maintenance. The district has room in the other school buildings. By closing the building, the district would save secretarial and custodial costs as well as maintenance and utility costs. The money could be used in other places in the district more wisely, Lagerblade said.
“I’m well aware that when you close a school in a community it hurts. It’s a psychological hurt as well as it’s physical hurt. In this particular case, the city provides most of the utilities and that will cut back on that. So, there’s also a monetary hurt, too.”
In order to close the building, district officials would need to hold three working sessions with public input, Lagerblade explained.
Board member Tom Feuerbach wanted to clarify that just because students had not been assigned to the Sabula building, did not mean the district was deciding to close the facility, which he considers an asset to the district.
“At this time, I hope we’re not at a stage where we’re actually talking about closing the Sabula building since we don’t take over possession until the end of June anyway.” board member Tom Feuerbach said. “It gives us a little bit of time to look at possibilities for use. If it turns out that the school board decides that we no longer need that facility, I would like to see us make sure that we turn it to the taxpayers who actually paid for it.”
The Sabula building discussion could be a moot point by the time Easton Valley takes control. Board member Lance Abernathy reported that the East Central School Board is accepting bids for demolishing the building.
Ultimately, board members decided not to take action on the Sabula building.
Board members also tabled a decision on where to locate the central office.
The next board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. March 28 at the Miles School. During this meeting, school board members will discuss the teacher layoffs that need to occur.
In other action, the board:
• Approved the hire of Denis Larson as the head volleyball coach, Kevin Behr as the head football coach and Mike Kelly as the head cross country coach.
• Approved a motion to offer a summer swimming program at the Maquoketa YWCA to all Easton Valley students.