Mexico Public School District No. 59 stepped Tuesday toward its hopeful transition of how it offers early childhood education. The district is looking to move pre-kindergarten and kindergarten ages into one school building, while keeping grades first through fifth in the other elementary school buildings.
The transition would allow the district to not only expand early elementary services, but also make classroom sizes more equitable at the elementary schools, Superintendent Zachary Templeton said.
The board of education previously discussed the early elementary and elementary school reconfiguration at a September work session, President Dustin Pascoe said. “We decided to gather more information, to move forward with researching it and this is the staff (responses),” he said.
A survey distributed to district staff garnered 179 responses. A similar survey was made available to parents of elementary students during parent-teacher conferences this week.
Of the staff surveyed, 90 percent would support the reconfiguration if it equalizes class sizes, and 92 would support the proposal if it expands early elementary programs. Staff also left 100 comments, with the top two areas of concern focused on staffing and class sizes.
The district’s Public Relations Officer Marci Minor said the survey has collected 213 parent responses so far, but more detailed information in regard to response breakdowns is not yet available.
Board members sought further information on staff responses. Board members Kelli Teel and Nathan Birt requested to see the actual responses, rather than a breakdown of topics put forth in the responses.
“I still feel like that is pertinent information to the decision to be made. … I don’t have to read them all, and I don’t know how you pick and choose what comments, but I feel like we’re asking for comments to be made, but we’re not seeing those comments. (The breakdown) doesn’t tell me anything about what is being said about the staffing,” Teel said.
Birt said he did like the categories, but he still would like something more specific. Pascoe asked if the surveys were anonymous, or if staff included personal identifiers. Templeton said personal information was only included if staff members provided it in their respective comments.
“I want to be sure we avoid some sense of picking and choosing the comments,” Pascoe said. “We either need to see all of them or see none of them.”
The next steps
The board had to determine which steps to take in the future as they work toward finalizing the possible reconfiguration. Pascoe said the board likely would need to hold another work session and then a public town hall, so they can get input from Mexico community members.
“Really, this needs to be happening between now and the next time the board meets,” Templeton said. “Depending on what direction the board wants to take at this point, we probably need some conversation about next steps.”
The district and school board are under pressure to make a decision.
“I don’t want to drag this out and have a meeting here, a meeting here, a meeting here, a meeting here. I think we can have (a town hall) if people are willing to come to it,” Pascoe said.
What the board would like, Pascoe said, is a more solidified proposal from the district, such as information on busing changes. He said a grade-center model, in which all students from one or two grade levels are placed in one building rather than spread between buildings, is not suitable for the district.
In order to come to a more solid footing, the board will conduct a work session at 6 p.m. Nov. 13 at the district office. The public forum then will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at the district office.
A final decision on the reconfiguration possibly will be made at the Nov. 20 board meeting.