FAIRMOUNT — Madison-Grant United School Corp. is taking a second crack at reconfiguring its elementary schools, more than two years after the public shot down a previous plan because of concerns over transportation.
Board of trustees member John Hanes and Madison-Grant Superintendent Scott Deetz said during a meeting Monday that a fresh look at a new plan is necessary because the district is losing enrollment and needs to make better use of its resources. Making the decision now to reconfigure the elementary schools in Summitville and Fairmount may prevent the closure of one of those buildings in the future, they said.
Though he is not a father yet, Hanes said he feels compelled to consider the future of the district on behalf of the family he one day plans to have.
“No matter what, it’s a hard decision, and we want to make the right decision,” he said. “I think we’re doing it for the future, not necessarily in the moment.”
The board is expected to make a decision on the plan at its next meeting, 7 p.m. Sept. 23.
“We have to keep up with the times, or we’re just doing our kids a disgrace,” said board President Mary Jo Brunt.
According to statistics reported to the Indiana Department of Education in 2018, the most recent year for which they are available, Madison-Grant lost 60 students, bringing its total population to 1,098. All Indiana school districts are expected to perform their annual average daily membership count for the 2019-20 school year on Friday.
The current plan, Deetz said, would have one of the elementary schools serve grades pre-kindergarten through two or three and the other become an intermediate school serving grades three or four through six. That also would allow expansion of the district’s preschool program to age 3, he added.
“We can speak the same language throughout the building pre-K to two, pre-K to three and have a more age-appropriate language for the older kids at the intermediate level,” he said. “We’ve also heard more than once about unified PTO activities.”
Transportation, specifically the amount of time students spend on the school bus, was the issue that derailed the previous plan. In addition, some parents objected to older children they counted on to watch younger children being picked up first.
Some families also have students at more than one level, meaning they would attend more than one school, making pickup challenging.
That’s why Deetz said district officials spent considerable time and attention to developing a plan that took into consideration as many of the parents’ stated needs as possible. The new plan includes making the high school campus a transfer hub.
In some aspects, Deetz said, the district already runs its current transportation system in a similar way but on a smaller scale.
The new plan means 15 buses would run an extra 250 miles a day, costing about $9,500 a year under the current diesel contract, Deetz said. One bus remains gas-fueled, and no cost estimates were developed for it, he added.
The calculations also did not take into consideration wear and tear, Deetz said.
Board member Bruce Stanley was concerned that confusion at the new hub may mean some students miss a bus.
“Would it be totally impossible to do an attendance on each bus?” he asked.
But Deetz said that would be an exercise in futility because there are as many as 40 unexpected transfer changes on any given day as parents decide to drop off or pick up children because of doctors’ appointments or other activities.
“You always feel bad for the secretaries at the elementaries about an hour before dismissal because of all the changes,” he said.
The new transportation system also will be helpful for transfer students, whose parents usually have to make their own arrangements to get their children to school.
“This provides them an opportunity to hop on with their elementary friends,” he said.