The Greater Johnstown School District on Thursday will conduct its final public forum on a proposal to reconfigure its elementary schools so that each building holds only two or three grades, instead of all seven.
The Board of Education is exploring the concept and will make a decision this summer on whether to proceed. If the board gives the green light, grade-level grouping could be in place by September, said district Superintendent Robert DeLilli. “It is possible to do this, but others said put it off until September 2014,” he said.
The district is exploring two grade-grouping possibilities, both of which would place pre-kindergarten through first grade at Pleasant Avenue Elementary School. The first possibility would group grades two and three at Glebe Street Elementary School and grades four through six at Warren Street Elementary School. The second possibility would group grades two through four at Warren Street and grades five and six at Glebe Street. The district’s junior high school and high school would not be affected by the realignment.
DeLilli said following Thursday’s meeting, the board will address concerns raised at the forums. The first forum was held last week. “We will start looking at common concerns and common strengths and start another series of meetings to explain and answer those questions,” he said.
Concerns raised at the first forum dealt with transportation of students to the various elementary schools and the timeline for putting the plan in place, he said.
Under the grade-grouping concept, some elementary students would have to be bused to their new schools while some could still walk to neighborhood schools, DeLilli said.
The district is looking at grade grouping in light of diminishing resources and as a way to boost educational success. “There is educational value to a grade-level group situation,” he said: The district could enhance efficiencies and reduce redundancies in programming; it could reduce travel time between buildings with shared staff; and it would let teachers collaborate with their peers more easily.
“Many of the mandates are requiring a tremendous amount of collaboration. The opportunities are greater if they are in the same buildings,” DeLilli said.
The district would see some cost savings under the concept, but not a huge amount. “We are looking at enhancing our educational program. The financial end of things will be minimal,” he said.
Thursday’s session is 6 to 8 p.m. in the cafeteria at Johnstown High School.