Third grade move to Rominger approved by school trustees

Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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Following an in-depth discussion between Winters Joint Unified School District staff, school board members, parents and community members the trustees voted unanimously to move the third grade from Waggoner Elementary to the Shirley Rominger Intermediate school site.

The proposal to move the third grade was presented at the Jan. 17 school board meeting with input from staff and community members. This is the third time the topic has been brought to trustees since it was first introduced on Oct. 20, 2016 and again on May 4, 2017.

“Through multiple conversations and research, staff believes that the grade configuration of TK to second and third to fifth provides a better aligned grade system for both academic and social development and assists teachers in curriculum development and articulation. The move of third grade will also provide a more balanced distribution of students,” said Superintendent Todd Cutler.

Trustees questioned the associated costs of relocating the portables and what they entailed. They also questioned whether it would be more cost efficient to purchase new portables, relocate them from the Winters High School site to Rominger or even sell them.

Cutler and Mary Fitzpatrick, Program Manager with Van Pelt Construction Services, reported the total estimated cost to relocate the portables was $452,500. The amount includes hard costs of construction and soft costs of design, inspection and management.

Originally the plan was to remove all of the portables from the WHS site. But with the passing of Measure P the opportunity to utilize funding to move portables to Rominger and move the third grade became a reality. Cutler said in original planning they had not thought deep enough of what they were going to do with preparing for growth at the school sites and if they should have kept the portables.

“We’re going to grow by about 20 to 25 students a year,” said Cutler. “Getting rid of portables, in my mind, is not a viable option. When you need portables the best option is that you have

preserved them. Right now they’ll be used as classroom space as we finish off new classrooms with auxiliary money.”

Fitzpatrick said Measure P would have taken on the costs to move the portable to allow for enough classroom space at the WHS site. Cutler followed up that they are proposing they use the Measure D monies to move them now.

Both Cutler and Fitzpatrick explained there were going to be costs in moving the portables whether they kept them or not. Besides needing to have them inspected and recertified with standards and codes required by the DSA (Division of the State Architect) and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) to keep them, there would also be costs associated in demolishing unusable ones and fixing and updating fixtures and functions within the portables to name a few. Cutler also shared a new portable would cost about $100,000 per portable alone and when adding in the extra costs it made sense to move and keep them.

Trustee Michael Olivas told fellow school board members, “New ones would require about $100K per portable, plus everything we would need to do on top of it.”

Cutler shared plans for the other portables currently on the WHS site. He said three were slated to be destroyed, one would be moved over to the preschool/Wolfskill site, one will be a field house for the football field and another would serve as a classroom for physical education classes behind the WHS gymnasium. He said another one will be moved to the parking lot to be utilized for college courses or local groups.

Winters Elementary School parents and community members were given an opportunity to voice concerns regarding the move. One was the concern regarding that the quickness of the move was causing some families hardships regarding child care.

WES parent Jamie Dotey expressed as a parent she felt a little blindsided.

“It is a very quick shift to change for childcare. We have six months to shift what we currently do,” Dotey said.

Katie Chapple, another WES parent, questioned if they had considered moving portables to Waggoner if reasons behind the move were to alleviate student overcrowding and future growth.

Cutler said the specific decision to move is not about overcrowding, although they do believe it will alleviate pressure stress on parking and vehicle congestion.

“In regards to previous meetings, the real interest that it’s best for academic and social development for that age of student. Also that the alignment of curriculum and collaboration will be beneficial to staff,” Cutler said.

In tune with Dotey’s concerns Chapple also requested the district and school board take into serious consideration on how children are supported with after school care, like Tree House Children’s Center, and how this quick move will impact families who are unable to pick up their children after school to transport them across town from the Rominger campus.

Cheryl Moore, a Tree House co-owner and administrator, voiced frustration that since the move was first proposed in January she has been unable to get a transportation schedule from the District so she can try to take a look at the bus routes and schedules to help make accommodations for third graders who attend their program. Moore also shared concern over the six-month proposed time span.

“I’m not here to argue whether we should move third grade over. There’s pros and cons on both sides,” Moore said. “What I don’t think is a good idea is the urgency in the move. I still don’t think six months is a very long time. I worry there could be problems in moving the portables. I don’t think construction is where we necessarily hope it will be. What is the backup plan if there is a time crunch? There’s a lot of moving parts. I say we do it slowly, smartly and do it right. If you do choose to make it, I hope we can work on it.”

The concern over transportation heated in discussion as WES parents asked for a commitment from the Board to consider a new bus route to help transport children from Rominger across Highway 128.

Trustee Carrie Green said until they make the decision to move the third grade they wouldn’t be able to consider the logistics, but once they had decided transportation would be one of the things they would need to iron out.

“That is one of many pieces of the puzzle to iron out, but we have to make the decision first.” said Green. “If we decide to go with it Dr. Cutler has the marching orders to go all out. We are looking out for the best interest of the kids and their families.”

Dotey and Chapple both expressed fear that there may not be enough money once logistics are looked at and a potential new bus route is scrapped leaving families scrambling with little time to find a new solution to transporting their children after school.

President Rob Warren said that he encouraged families to start making plans for a way to get their children transported because with a limited amount of resources and funds he couldn’t commit to a new bus route.

“I’m not going to guarantee anyone that we are going to do that (create a new bus route). You have six months to make an alternate plan,” said Warren. “Be prepared that we might not be moving your kids from the new site to across town. I would love if we could do that. But I know our finances, and we’re strapped. It might not be exact what you want, but it might be close. Make other plans, and if it works out it works out. I’m going to be straight up about it.”

Dotey, Chapple and Moore all individually made a request that the board consider holding the actual move from the six-month proposed time span to at least a year-long one and for the school district to consider adding a bus drop off near Waggoner.

JoAnn May, WES teacher and Winters Area Education Association President, expressed to the school board that having a sink with running water in the classroom was a request from a teacher standpoint. She addressed that the portables at the high school are newer than the portables at Waggoner and she feels good about the portables that will be coming to Rominger. May also shared that Rominger staff are excited to welcome third graders and third grade teachers over.

“Fourth and fifth grade teachers are excited and enthusiastic about third grade teachers moving over. We cannot wait to talk and communicate with them about curriculum and learning,” said May. “When we (Rominger) first started, all 14 classes had students and now they don’t. I really like working with kids and I can’t wait to meet new ones. I’m excited to learn a whole new grade levels names. Whether it happens next year or a year from now, I’m excited.”

The school board unanimously voted in favor to move third grade to the Rominger site.


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