Weatherford Democrat

January 28, 2014

Aledo ISD board okays moving fifth graders


Weatherford Democrat

— By JUDY SHERIDAN

Hoping to buy planning time in the face of projected growth, Aledo ISD trustees Monday voted 5-1 to move the district’s fifth graders — and their teachers — from the district’s four elementary campuses to McAnally Intermediate School, beginning this fall.

McAnally, which once held both fifth and sixth graders, is now occupied just by sixth graders.

Voting in favor of the change were Jay Stringer, Johnny Campbell, Steve Bartley, David Tillman and Hoyt Harris.

Bobby Rigues voted against the change, saying one or two of the four science specialists should continue to serve the elementary campuses instead of moving with the fifth graders; David Davis was absent.

Chris Taylor, a parent with children at Stuard Elementary, suggested during the public comment section that a science specialist rotate among the elementary schools.

“If we move all four science specialists now you have four speciaists essentially moving for one grade, and I don’t know that that is the best use of the specialists we have when we leave out the kindergarten through fourth grade students,” he said.   

Superintendent Derek Citty, who called the move “a short-term fix driven by capacity,” said it was the best answer for enrollment/capacity projections, assembled with the help of Templeton Demographics.

Those projections show Stuard Elementary at 93 percent of its maximum capacity — using every available space for instruction — this school year — two elementary schools in the same situation next school year and three elementary schools hitting the mark in 2016-17.

In contrast, enrollment/capacity projections that incorporate the fifth grade move to McAnally show McAnally as the first campus to reach 93 percent of maximum capacity in 2016-17, joined by two elementary schools in 2017-18 and a third in 2018-19.

“Staying in the current situation will have us redrawing attendance zones, which is an unpleasant process and not an efficient strategy,” Citty said, “or using portable buildings.”

Citty said some parents who attended the two recent community meetings about the reconfiguration worried that their children might not be ready to go from class to class or ride the same bus as high schoolers.

Others were concerned about the traffic flow in front of McAnally or losing the science specialists that currently serve grades K-5.

Responding to the concerns, Citty told the board that administrators found no research to support that the proposed change would harm students.

Few high schoolers ride the buses, he said, and fifth and sixth graders will be seated in the front.

The superintendent acknowledged the traffic problem at McAnally during dismissal and said VLK Architects was looking at ways to establish a better traffic flow pattern.

Science specialists have co-taught with classroom teachers in the elementary grades for two years, he told the board.

“They know it, and there’s no need to design new curriculum or labs,” he said. “Fifth grade is an important testing year for those kids.”

“Why not leave back one or two versus taking all four?” Rigues asked.

“Moving the science specialists helps us with class sizes,” Citty responded, adding that some of the teacher/student ratios exceeded 26:1.

“For the sake of one grade, we’re jeopardizing something that’s working,” Rigues said. “I’m not satisfied with the answers I’ve been given.”

Citty told the board that this year was the first school year in Aledo’s history where the kindergarten class is larger than the senior class.

“When attendance flips from secondary to elementary, it’s a prime indicator that growth is coming,” he said.

“We want facilities in place when the wave hits the beach. We’ve vetted this as much as any project, and we’re very confident we can pull this off.”