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Shenandoah schools look at boundary options

By Kim Walter

WOODSTOCK -- The Shenandoah County School Board on Thursday decided to once again hold off on making a decision regarding attendance boundaries.

Board members have been discussing the issue of overcrowding in two of the three county elementary schools for several months, and are struggling to find a long-term solution.

A VCU study suggested redrawing attendance boundaries in order to make the elementary school population even throughout the county. However, all three schools would be operating at around 97 percent capacity if that plan is put into effect.

It's because of this reason that Superintendent B. Keith Rowland is hesitant of implementing the change.

"The way the student population is growing, we might be back in this situation in another five years," he said.

Another downside to redrawing the lines is how much time the board would have to allow to notify parents. Rowland estimated the change would take about 18 months, and a number of students and families could be negatively impacted.

At their Dec. 13 meeting, board members asked Rowland to look into shifting fifth graders to middle school, or shifting eighth graders to high school. During Thursday night's meeting, Rowland shared a presentation which suggested that shifting grades would simply move the overcrowding problem to another school.

Rowland proposed a new idea, however.

"About six years ago, we discussed separating our elementary schools from the middle and high schools," Rowland said. "This would mean different bus schedules and different starting and ending times for the school day."

In essence, the attendance boundaries would be redrawn only for the elementary schools to try and even out the student population levels. While it would involve some additional expense, Rowland suggested that board members think about it.

"It's not an uncommon practice to have elementary schools on a different schedule than your middle and high schools," he said. "It just can't be done without the added expense ... you'll just have to weigh the negatives against the positives."

Board member Gary Rutz said that knowing what all of those positives and negatives were would be step in the right direction.

"At this time, we'll keep the item as information and maybe at some time, when we don't have as much going on, Dr. Rowland can share those pros and cons with us," he said.

In other matters, the school board:

• Approved policy revisions both recommended by the Virginia School Boards Association and by central administrative staff. They include the use of electronic devices in the classroom and the use of direct deposit for all school system staff.

• Approved an interim pay program for new teachers.

• Recognized five teachers in the division who recently received National Board Certification.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com


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