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Administrators debate altering school district; 3 options offered for realignment

Administrators in the Grand Island School District aren't much closer to deciding how, or whether, to realign the district's three elementary schools despite plenty of recently received supporting information.

During Monday's School Board meeting, several administrators updated board members on their realignment research.

Grand Island is considering three options. The first would shift second-graders from Huth Road and Kaegebein schools to join prekindergartners through first-graders at Sidway School. The second option would create three prekindergarten through fifth-grade buildings, while the third option would retain the current student alignment.

"There are really pluses and minuses to all of them," said Kerri Nowak, principal of Huth Road.

Keeping grade levels where they are now would retain the sense of community and pride that exists at each building, she said. The programming and equipment at each building also are adequate, she said, with Sidway maintaining a feel that's safe for younger students. That is somewhat offset, though, by the lack of older student role models, as well as the disruption that transitioning to one of the other elementary schools could create.

That disruption would also exist if second-grade classes move to Sidway. But having second-graders there would allow for a greater emphasis on literacy at the lower grades while freeing up room in the other two buildings for additional science, technology, engineering and math teaching space, she said.

Creating three pre-K through fifth-grade buildings would eliminate one student transition and would allow for greater sharing of student information from grade to grade. But those elements, along with the greater availability of resources, would be offset by a potential inequity of student population among the three buildings and dispersing teachers at every grade level, making collaboration more difficult, Nowak said.

Board members raised a few additional concerns. Glenn Bobeck cited the possible need for additional music teachers to cover what would be three fourth- and fifth-grade instrumental classes instead of two. Then there would be the logistics of fitting students into available spaces if shifting were involved, board President Richard Little Jr. said.

A staff survey, meanwhile, yielded no statistical preference among the three options. Each of the three options received a roughly equivalent number of votes among the approximately 100 staffers who were polled.

Nowak told board members that her group's recommendation might be some time off due to the fact that cost and culture had not yet been taken into account. Trustees instructed her group, however, to offer a recommendation based solely on academics, perhaps as early as the board's July 11 meeting.

"From a cost standpoint, that's something that's complex," Bobeck said. "That's something for [board members] to deal with."

Monday also marked the last regular meeting for Little and Trustee Myrna Blair. Little, who served six years, and Blair, who served 15 years, lost their seats in May's election. Tak Nobumoto and Emily Ciraolo won those seats and will take over next month.

"Our job here as a board of education is kids first, so keep that focus," Little told his fellow board members. "We have the quality people here in this district to give you the insight and the information to succeed. Amazingly enough, these have been good evenings."

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