Saturday, March 1, 2003

Stewart decision could be soon



By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

OXFORD - Parents of children enrolled at Stewart Elementary School could learn Sunday where their children will attend classes after Stewart closes at the end of the school year.

The Talawanda Board of Education listened to community members for 90 minutes before whittling eight options down to two this week. Administrators were asked to prepare cost estimates for each that will be discussed at a special meeting set for 1 p.m. Sunday at the middle school.

"We want to make a decision as soon as possible to give administrators time to prepare plans and figure out the best way to notify parents,'' said Glenn Bailey, school board president.

The options are:

• Move all fourth-grade classes to Kramer and put fifth-graders at the middle school, which would then house all the district's students in grades 5-8.

• Move all fourth-graders to Kramer and move half the fifth grade to Maud Marshall Elementary School and half to the middle school.

"These are not desirable options,'' said Superintendent Phil Cagwin. "They will fill the immediate need for next year and it will get the students into an environment where we can teach them.''

Two weeks ago, the board decided to close Stewart after voters rejected a bond issue for the second time that would have paid to build a new elementary school. Teachers have complained of poor air quality at Stewart for years.

Reily Township parent Mary Richardson, who has six school-age and two younger children, said she favors keeping the fifth-graders together at the middle school.

"The schools will be very, very crowded and it's going to be tough either way, but it's the best option,'' said Richardson, a 1983 Talawanda High School graduate.

Under either scenario, class sizes will increase and some teachers will lose their classrooms, using the empty classrooms of colleagues during their planning period, Cagwin said. Staff layoffs are also possible and the district may have to lease or purchase portable classrooms.

There are 123 fourth-graders and 214 fifth-graders enrolled at Stewart, Cagwin said.

E-mail suek@infi.net




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