Parents seek compromise
Propose 4K in Fremont, Weyauwega
By Angie Landsverk
Fremont residents are asking Weyauwega-Fremont’s administrators and school board to consider offering 4K in both Fremont and Weyauwega instead of moving the program from Fremont to Weyauwega.
They presented the idea Monday, Feb. 12, during a special school board meeting in the middle school library.
“It’s time to compromise and give something back to Fremont,” said Wendy Weiss.
She was among the approximately 50 people who attended the three-hour meeting.
Weiss, a Fremont resident and former 4K educator in the district, said when the district started its 4K program 16 years ago, there was not room to host the program at both elementary schools.
Now there is room.
Doug Ehrenberg, the board’s president, said the plan to move the programs is currently an action item for the board when it meets on Monday, Feb. 26.
Board member Sandy Smith said the parents’ idea is worth considering.
The Feb. 26 meeting begins at 6 p.m., at Fremont Elementary School.
Allison Gleisner also attended this week’s special board meeting.
The Fremont resident is the parent of a child who will be a 4K student in the 2018-19 school year.
That is when the move it scheduled to be implemented.
Gleisner met with District Administrator Scott Bleck and Elementary Principal Doug Nowak last December, after learning of the plan to move the programs.
She said the main reasons for moving the programs were cited as:
• Early Childhood students would have a better transition into special education and kindergarten after a year of Early Childhood at Weyauwega Elementary.
• Early Childhood students would have better access to the district’s nurse, speech and physical therapy, with the opportunity for the teacher to confer with other special education teachers.
• Academic time for Early Childhood and 4K students would increase due to transportation adjustments.
Gleisner said the district could meet these objectives by moving Early Childhood to Weyauwega, while offering 4K at both elementary schools.
She said students from both Fremont and Weyauwega would then transition into their respective elementary schools when they start kindergarten.
Bleck said moving 4K to Weyauwega would increase instruction time by 25 minutes per day.
The 4K schedule would be 7:50 a.m. to 3 p.m., matching that of their elementary peers, he said.
Currently, 4K students from Weyauwega are shuttled to Fremont, arriving there after the school day begins.
There are two, full-day sections of 4K at Fremont Elementary.
One section meets on Monday and Thursday and the other on Tuesday and Friday.
That would not change.
This year, there are 35 students in the 4K program and six in Early Childhood.
Bleck said 28 children participated in last month’s Child Development Days, a screening for the 4K and Early Childhood programs.
Of that number, 22 are eligible for 4K, he said.
Gleisner said about 15 children from Fremont will attend 4K in 2018-19, justifying a class in Fremont.
“The numbers were a little less than what we typically see. It’s a fluid number,” Bleck said of the numbers from the screening.
In 2016-17, there were 44 students in 4K and four in Early Childhood.
During the 2013-14 school year, there were 55 students in 4K and two in Early Childhood.
Bleck said classroom locations are reviewed annually and based on student needs.
The plan to move Early Childhood and 4K from Fremont to Weyauwega was presented in November, nine months prior to when the change is to take place, he said.
Last July, the administrative team began talking about relocating the programs to Weyauwega Elementary, Bleck said.
That was after the site plan related to the district’s referendum had been concluded.
In November 2016, voters in the district approved spending up to $21 million on a building and improvement program in the district.
Bleck said last July is when they had a “most certain look at the spaces.”
In September, the district knew its student enrollment numbers.
This school year, there is an extra classroom in Weyauwega Elementary, he said.
By November, administrators were comfortable presenting a plan to relocate 4K and Early Childhood to space in that school.
The planned move is also related to the project underway at the high school.
That project includes additions and remodeling.
The vocal music room for middle and high school students will move from the middle school to high school.
Weyauwega Elementary’s music program will then move into the middle school space.
As a result, there will be two rooms available in Weyauwega Elementary.
Since then, kindergarten teachers have offered to move their classrooms. so 4K and Early Childhood could move into their rooms, on the west end of the school.
Fremont residents expressed concerns about the long-term impact of the idea.
This year, there are 115 students at Fremont Elementary.
That includes the 41 students in 4K and Early Childhood.
Moving those programs would remove about 35 percent of the student body out of Fremont Elementary, said Andrea Neault, a Fremont parent.
She said that makes the long-term outlook for the community look dim.
Board members addressed the concerns of Fremont residents.
“I know the fear is we want to close Fremont,” said Deb Bartel.
She said the topic did come up in the past, including when her husband served on the school board close to 20 years ago.
Bartel said there is a lot of emotion and love attached to Fremont Elementary and that when she says the school will be open “a while,” that is an open-ended timeline.
Moving the district’s Early Childhood and 4K programs from Fremont to Weyauwega was one of the topics on the agenda Monday night.
Also discussed was the district’s plan to create a new entrance at Fremont Elementary by remodeling the school’s kindergarten classroom instead of building an addition along James Street.
A story about that discussion will appear in the Feb. 22 issue of the Waupaca County Post.