If Weyauwega Elementary School needs an additional teacher for the 2015-16 school year to meet the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) requirements, the district will hire one.
That was the decision of the school board when it met on Monday, March 23.
The board’s vote of 6-0 also includes continuing to offer at least one section of every grade from kindergarten through fifth grade at Fremont Elementary School. Debi Bartel was absent.
About 30 people, many of them parents of students who attend Fremont Elementary, came to the meeting and applauded after the board voted.
The topic was up for discussion because Weyauwega Elementary is a SAGE school.
Schools in the SAGE program agree to have a student to teacher ratio of 18 to 1 or 30 to 2 in kindergarten through third grade.
The schools enter into renewable, five-year contracts with the Wisconsin Department of Instruction and receive funding.
Established in the 1996-97 school year, the program is designed to promote academic achievement through lower class sizes in the primary grades.
Recognizing the number of students who may be in first, second and third grades next fall at Weyauwega Elementary, district administrators saw the need to either hire additional teachers or move classes from Fremont Elementary and reassign Fremont teachers to Weyauwega.
Options were presented and discussed during the board’s March 9 Committee of the Whole meeting, followed by a March 17 informational meeting at Fremont Elementary.
Parents who currently have students enrolled at Fremont Elementary spoke during this week’s board meeting and asked the board not to move Fremont Elementary’s fourth and fifth-grade classes to Weyauwega.
That option was presented as a two-year project, and some parents feared those two classes would not return to Fremont after that time.
The majority of parents who attended the March 17 informational meeting in Fremont were in favor of the district hiring an additional teacher for Weyauwega Elementary.
Andrea Neault, the parent of a 4 year old and a 2 year old, was among them.
She said the proposal to move fourth and fifth grades from Fremont to Weyauwega would have several ramifications.
Families would not want their children split up, and she said the proposal would potentially shut down Fremont’s Drama Club, as well as the various ways in which the school’s younger students interact with the older students.
“Attendance at school programs would be diminished,” Neault said.
The school would also lose volunteers and parent/teacher group members, she said.
She asked the board to let “Fremont remain one small school and one big family” and encouraged the district to ask parents of Weyauwega Elementary students if any are interested in moving their children to Fremont Elementary.
Fremont Elementary is not a SAGE school.
This school year, there are currently 11 students in kindergarten, 18 in first grade, 12 in second grade, 13 in third grade, 14 in fourth grade and 17 in fifth grade.
Elementary Principal Doug Nowak said Weyauwega Elementary currently has eight teachers for kindergarten through third grade.
There are 51 students in kindergarten, 50 in first grade, 47 in second grade, 37 in third grade, 47 in fourth grade and 41 in fifth grade.
Board member Sandy Smith asked administrators to inform parents whose children will be in fourth and fifth grades next fall in Weyauwega of the smaller class sizes at that level in Fremont, in case any are interested in moving their children to Fremont.
She also asked her fellow board members to make a decision about staffing this month, so parents and teachers would not be left waiting another month for one.
Marcy Farkas has daughters in first and third grades in Fremont and said she was upset parents of Weyauwega Elementary students had not been told about the situation.
The district successfully changed bus routes in the past and could do so again, she said, referring to Weyauwega families who may beinterested in sending their children to Fremont.
Don Lederhaus has two children at Fremont Elementary and one at the middle school.
One of them will be a third grader in the fall at Fremont. The proposal to move fourth and fifth grades from Fremont to Weyauwega for two years meant that child would have then gone to Weyauwega for fourth grade and then back to Fremont for fifth grade, Lederhaus said.
He described that option as a short-term solution for a long-term problem.
District Administrator Scott Bleck thanked those who spoke for voicing their opinions and said the options initially presented to the board and parents were a starting point for discussion.