Classrooms assignment takes shape

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

USD 257 board members adopted a plan Monday for distributing LaHarpe Elementary School students among three Iola elementary schools. Changes were necessitated by the board’s decision April 28 to close LaHarpe.
McKinley School will have two sections each of kindergarten, first, second and third grades; Jefferson School will have two sections each of kindergarten, first, second and third grades and three each of fourth and fifth grades; Lincoln School will have two sections each of kindergarten through fifth grade. Preschool students also will be housed at Lincoln.
Board members discussed several approaches, including having all fifth- and sixth-graders at Jefferson, before a recommendation from the elementary administrative team to adopt the plan they did.
It also was the favorite of Dr. Craig Neuenswander, superintendent of schools.
“We think this is the way to go,” said Larry Hart, Lincoln principal, speaking for himself and principals Lori Maxwell and Brad Crusinbery. “We have teachers slotted in just as we’d like to have them.”
Hart allowed that the plan will be an issue with some parents, but “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue for the kids.”
LaHarpe K-3 students will remain together at McKinley while fourth- and fifth-graders living in the McKinley area will feed into Jefferson. Forth and fifth graders from LaHarpe will go to Lincoln.
Even so, there will be exceptions.
“Every year we try to put kids where parents want them,” Hart said. “We’ll try to do that next year. But it doesn’t work out every time.”
Based on current enrollment, class sizes will ranges from 17.3 in third grade to 20.8 in second grade, slightly larger than this year’s average.
Title 1 programs and specials — physical education, art, music and library — will remain in place at each building.

NEUENSWANDER told board members the fiscal 2010 state budget approved by legislators in the wrap-up session would reduce general fund state aid to USD 257 by $376,957, based on per-pupil aid of $4,280, down from $4,433 at the start of school last fall.
With cuts board members have made, including closing LaHarpe and cutting four teaching positions, the district will have a budget balance of $165,426, he said.
However, with the state’s $13 billion budget having only a $17,000 balance, there is real fear of additional reductions, Neuenswander said.
In addition, Neuenswander said, the district’s special education services payment to ANW Cooperative is not yet set and may increase by as much as $23,000.
Scheduled textbook purchases of $120,000 were not figured into the budget.
“If everything remains as it is today, it looks like we’ll be OK, but we won’t know until later,” Neuenswander said.
State revenue estimates are made in November.