Spring Cove to realign elementary grades

ROARING SPRING – The Spring Cove School Board agreed this week to establish a 4-year-old kindergarten program and realign elementary grades over two buildings but delayed their implementation for a year.

At a special meeting Monday, board members voted 6-3 to reject a grade realignment plan for the coming school year but approved the plan 8-1 for the 2015-16 year. Under realignment – a controversial issue for years at Spring Cove – students through second grade are set to attend Spring Cove Elementary in Roaring Spring, while third- through fifth-graders are set to attend Martinsburg Elementary.

The two schools are currently split geographically, not by grade. Superintendent Robert Vadella has said funding discrepancies between the schools could cost the district its federal funds, with realignment the only option to save the threatened money.

In a second pair of votes Monday, board members unanimously rejected a plan to establish universal, optional kindergarten for 4-year-olds in the coming school year, agreeing instead by a 6-3 margin to begin the classes in fall 2015.

“The board, as a whole, decided to err on the side of caution,” board member Julie Mills said.

“We were listening to all of the information. We were listening to the community, and we were listening to Dr. Vadella.”

While most board members agreed with both moves, Mills said, they didn’t have sufficient time to discuss the plans. The 4-year-old kindergarten program was first detailed in mid-March; realignment has been debated on and off for years, though no single plan was picked until recently.

With the one-year delays for both plans, the so-called K-4 classes and realignment will take effect in late 2015 – months before five board members’ terms expire. Mills said she sees little reason for members to reverse the decision in the coming year, as the board’s makeup is set to remain the same.

The K-4 plan, which would remain optional for all students, has drawn little controversy. Realignment, however, has prompted concerns that young students would be forced into long bus rides.

The decision to reserve Martinsburg Elementary for older students could help calm some parents’ fears that kindergarten students from as far as Puzzletown would be sent to the school.

Board members on Monday moved ahead with one of the year’s changes on schedule, hiring three teachers for a soon-to-be-independent Life Skills program. The district is taking over the program, which teaches special-needs students basic work skills, from a regional education authority in a bid to save money.

While Vadella’s plan in March called for the money saved through Life Skills to be pumped into K-4, those savings will now go directly into next year’s budget, Mills said.

Vadella did not return a message seeking comment.

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.