The Waupaca School Board voted Monday, Dec. 5 to begin shifting two classrooms per year from Chain O’ Lakes Elementary School to Waupaca Learning Center.
The transition will begin in the 2012-13 school year. At the end of two years, the administration and board will further evaluate enrollment figures, finances and facility costs before making a final decision regarding Chain O’ Lakes Elementary.
The board also approved a recommendation to move the fifth-grade classes from WLC to the middle school next year.
District Administrator Dave Poeschl said administrators evaluated two scenarios: Move all the classes from the Chain to WLC next year or make the move gradually.
He said making the transition over a longer period of time would give the district more flexibility.
If all the classes were moved from the Chain to WLC, there would only be three extra classrooms available. If, for example, an incoming kindergarten class had a slight increase in enrollment over prior years, it could be enough to require an additional classroom.
The district must have an 18-to-1 student-teacher ratio in kindergarten through third grade in order to receive SAGE funding.
“One student over 18 creates the need for a whole new classroom,” Poeschl said. “Three extra rooms are not enough of a cushion.”
Currently, the Chain is using 10 classrooms to educate a total of 173 students, said Chain Principal Susan Davenport. There are two kindergarten classes, four first-grade classes and four second-grade classes.
In the 2012-13 academic year, the Chain is projected to have a total of 139 students in eight classrooms. Two first-grade classes will be moved to WLC.
WLC Principal John Erspamer reported that his school is currently using 43 classrooms for pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students. There are about 47 classrooms at WLC, although some of the rooms can be divided in two, depending on class size and what classes are being taught in the room.
Next year, when two first-grade classes shift from the Chain to WLC and fifth-graders move to the middle school, Erspamer projects that a total of 36 classrooms will be used at WLC.
Ben Rayome, principal at Waupaca Middle School, focused his presentation on where the different grades will be located in the building.
Fifth-grade classrooms will be located at the back end of the main hallway that is now called 6th Avenue, farthest from the entrance near the front offices.
He said fifth-graders would be relatively segregated from most of the other grades, although there will be three sixth-grade classrooms nearby to facilitate programs that the two grades have in common.
Sixth-grade classrooms will also be located on the 7th Street hallway in the front of the building, adjacent to some seventh-grade rooms. Eighth-grade classrooms will remain on 8th Street, while most seventh-grade rooms will be on 7th Avenue.
Rayome noted that the middle school has locker space for more than 800 students and currently has 512 students. Lockers for each grade would be located near that grade’s classrooms.
Carl Hayek, the district’s business manager, estimated that the district would save more than $167,000 the first year it closed the Chain school and the savings would rise to more than $218,000 by 2020.
Hayek’s estimates did not include further declines in enrollment or staff reductions.
In other business, Poeschl reported that administrators have temporarily relocated to the high school and the middle school due to a Nov. 20 fire in the basement of the Central School building.
The fire, although quickly controlled, damaged electrical equipment and the phone system. Soot and asbestos made their way into the ventilation system, and crews are currently cleaning ceiling tiles and removing the asbestos.
While most of the administrative offices are expected to reopen this week, the old Central School building itself will remain closed.
The district had been renting space to Waupaca Preschool and to the Waupaca Family Resource Center. Those programs have since moved to other locations.
Poeschl said the district is examining the possibility of demolishing the building. He gave the school board a rough estimate of $150,000 to raze the building.