Johnstown still studying grade-level school options

JOHNSTOWN – The study of a possible reorganization of the city school district’s three neighborhood elementary schools by grade level has moved behind closed doors as officials sort out logistics.

“I can tell you we’re having a lot of meetings, but we’re communicating with each other in-house at this point,” Patricia Kilburn, the district’s director of curriculum, testing and personnel, said at Thursday’s Board of Education meeting.

The school board has not committed to reorganizing the elementary schools, but it directed administrators last month to draw up a plan that would put pre-kindergartners, kindergartners and first-graders at Pleasant Avenue Elementary School, second- and third-graders at Glebe Street Elementary School and fourth- through sixth-graders at Warren Street Elementary.

At about 62,000 square feet, the Warren Street building is almost twice as large as the other elementary schools.

Kilburn said administrators have been looking into how the facilities could be used, as well as studying transportation issues.

The district’s southernmost elementary school, Glebe Street, is two miles from the city’s northern neighborhoods.

“We’re kind of tackling one piece at a time,” Kilburn said. “There are so many factors that are interdependent on each other. We might figure out some way that staffing could work but might have to wait to hear back from [the transportation department] to hear how schedules might work out. So it’s all interconnected right now.”

School officials have not released a timeline when a plan will be announced, and grade-level grouping was not on the agenda of Thursday’s Board of Education meeting. During the public-comment portion of the meeting, resident Dick Baker asked when the board would address the possible restructuring.

“We probably have to see a plan first before we discuss much more,” board member Doug Dougherty said.

After Kilburn spoke, Baker suggested the district might not be ready to act for the 2013-14 school year.

“So probably, best-case scenario, it’s not going to happen next year?” he asked.

“I would not be prepared to say anything along that line, because we’re still trying to figure it out,” Kilburn said.

If the district proceeds with grade-level grouping, it would be the second reorganization of Johnstown elementary schools since the 2009-10 school year, after the school board unanimously approved closing Jansen Avenue Elementary School in the wake of declining district enrollment and state aid.

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