Suwannee Democrat

February 8, 2013

The cost and logistics of school reconfiguration

Sound off: Local teachers union, NAACP speak out

Bryant Thigpen
Suwannee Democrat

Live Oak — The question has been raised several times by readers and those attending the town hall meetings on school reconfiguration. Just how much is it going to cost to separate the three Live Oak grade schools, and what would be the logistics behind the move? 

The Suwannee County School Board released a breakdown of figures that shows the estimated costs to reconfigure at $102,320, if the board votes to do so in March.

The schools being discussed for reconfiguration are Suwannee Primary School, which currently offers Pre-K through first grade; Suwannee Elementary School, grades 2-3; and Suwannee Intermediate School, grades 4-5. The schools would be transformed into three distinct grade schools that would all offer Pre-K through fifth grade which would go into effect in the 2013-14 school year, if approved.

The data released shows that $39,820 will be spent on personnel. The school board will grant each teacher an extra day of post planning which will cost $38,000. An additional 80 hours for three media specialists will total $1,820.

Playground equipment appropriate for various ages will cost approximately $50,000. SIS and SES will have to add equipment appropriate for ages 2-5, which is estimated at $15,000 per school. SPS will have to add fitness structures for ages 5-12 that is projected to be $5,000. Fencing to separate the playgrounds will run about $15,000.

Signs will have to be replaced at SIS and SPS and lettering on the entrance sign at SES would need to be changed, an estimated budget of $10,000. The new signs are projected to cost $4,000 and $2,000 is projected in order to change the lettering on the SES sign.

Finally, $2,500 is estimated for moving materials including boxes, tape, markers, shrink wrap and labels. 

The logistics

Some furniture moving will be necessary should the schools be reconfigured, and Director of Facilities Mark Carver said there will be some additional effort above what is traditionally done each school year.

“As far as moving furniture, all the classroom furniture in he district is handled every summer by emptying the rooms for floor refinishing and cleaning. There will just be some additional effort of distributing appropriate size desks to all three schools,” Carver said. “Instead of moving and storing the desks in the hall way for cleaning, they can be carried to a trailer and delivered to the appropriate school. All three schools may swap some furniture.”

Carver anticipates the same concept for moving the teacher’s instructional material around.

“Historically, the most efficient way is they box it and we then palletize it, shrink wrap it and move it on pallets to their new assigned room,” said Carver.

Every summer, the schools employ day laborers for summer projects. Carver said these workers will load and unload the furniture and materials.

“With proper planning, I anticipate about two to three weeks of extra effort for three workers,” said Carver.

He said that each school would be able to carry the capacity they were designed for - a K-5 school.

For example, Carver said that an elementary school could have 25 primary classrooms at 18 student stations each, giving them 450 primary student stations; 14 intermediate classrooms at 22 student stations each, giving them 308 intermediate student stations.

“The school would then have a capacity of 713, which is a value used for concurrency,” said Carver. “If this school was used for primary only, it would actually only have a capacity of 702 (39 rooms with 18 students each). Or if used as an intermediate level, it would actually have a capacity of 858 (39 rooms with 22 students each).”

Carver said that a school designed for K-5 will have appropriate associated spaces for the designed capacity of the school with K-5 students.

The school board will make a decision in March to decide if reconfiguring will happen in Suwannee County for the 2013-14 school year.

A Reconfiguration Task Force Committee was formed to look at the possible move.
It is made up of Sheriff Tony Cameron, Sheryl Daniels, Crystal Gill, Debbie McCall and Pat Roberts.

Sound off

The United Teachers of Suwannee County has spoken out on school reconfiguration as well as the local NAACP chapter which has recently reformed (See a future edition for related story).

The UTSC is in favor of reconfiguring if the costs remain small, or non existent.

“UTSC believes reconfiguring the K-5 schools will benefit teachers, students and the community if it is done correctly,” said UTSC President Annette Kinsey. “Reconfiguration can be a tool for increasing the student contact time and this can increase student academic proficiency. Reconfiguration will also allow continuity from kindergarten through the 5th grade and allow a school ‘family’ culture to grow.”

The Suwannee County Branch of the NAACP said they “strongly oppose” reconfiguration for four reasons:

“At the first town hall meeting you (Supt. Jerry Scarborough) failed to answer many of the questions that were posed to you. When one participant asked you to summarize the pros and cons of reconfiguration, you stated that there are some good things and there are some bad things ... But you were unable or unwilling to cite specific details. This raised concerns about whether you and your staff have fully explored these details and their projected impact on the operations of a multimillion dollar education system,” a letter from the Branch stated.

The second reason cites the proposed zones for the schools and that the way it is composed will re-segregate certain schools.

The third reason asks how the district will handle transfer of students for employees.

“Would this transfer option extend to all full- and part-time employees including bus drivers, maintenance workers, custodians, school crossing guards, etc.?” the NAACP asked.

The fourth reason was that several questions have yet to be answered.

“There are many more questions that need to be answered before this proposal can even be properly evaluated,” The NAACP stated.