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Possible Changes in the School District

TO: Parents of West Branch Elementary Students 

DATE:  February 27, 2012
FROM: Dr. Scott Weingart, Superintendent
PROPOSAL BY THE ADMINISTRATION: West Branch Schools is currently looking at the possibility of moving all Fifth Grade Students to West Branch Middle School and moving Beloit Elementary Students and Staff to Damascus or Knox Elementary Schools as soon as next fall. At this time, this is a Proposal by the Administration. The School Board has not made a decision regarding the proposal and will not make a decision until sometime in March.
WHY ARE WE CONSIDERING THIS?   Enhancement to Education: The Administration believes that bringing the Fifth Grade Students under one roof creates an effective and efficient way to deliver instruction. Bringing the Kindergarten through Fourth Grade Staffs and Students under two roofs (Damascus and Knox) instead of three will allow us to deliver instruction and balance classes more effectively and efficiently. New State Requirements and New State Testing will be implemented in the next two years. The Administration believes that this proposed model will allow for increased collaboration of staff and will allow us to utilize our existing staff more efficiently and effectively. Declining Enrollment: Over the past three years, West Branch has experienced a net loss of over 200 students. This is especially apparent at the elementary level. In the past couple of years, we have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of students coming in as kindergarteners. Ten years ago, we routinely enrolled between 175-200 kindergarteners. The past three years our kindergarten enrollment averaged 150 students. This past fall, we enrolled 139 kindergarteners. Knox and Damascus were both built to accommodate three grades per level. Beloit Elementary School was built to accommodate two grades per level. This is a total of eight classrooms per grade level. With our current enrollment in elementary school aged children, we only need six classrooms per grade level at most grade levels. Decreasing Revenue: It is no secret that there are dramatic cuts coming in state funding. Approximately 63 percent of the funding to operate our School District comes from the State of Ohio and is dependent upon enrollment. In 2010-2011, our School District had an annual operating revenue of about $19 million. Next year (2012-2013), that amount will be reduced by $1.5 million. Should district enrollment continue to decline as it is projected to do, State Funding will be further reduced.
WHAT ABOUT OPEN ENROLLMENT?  West Branch has accepted Open Enrollment Students for nearly 20 years. Over the past several years, our Open Enrollment Students have enabled us to keep the School District’s Enrollment constant at about 2400 students.  We continue to attract Open Enrollment Students. As a matter of fact, we took in a record number (over 300) of Open Enrollment Students this year. What we are seeing is a sharp decline in the number of school-age children who live within our District’s Boundaries. This is not unique to West Branch. Northeastern Ohio is experiencing a dramatic decrease in the number of school-aged students. In 2008-2009, West Branch had a total enrollment of 2498 students. This year’s enrollment is 2276 students.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? The West Branch Community is faced with the challenge of declining student enrollment, decreasing revenue from the State of Ohio, and new State Requirements and Testing. The School Board and Administration want to respond to these challenges in a way that protects the core instruction of our students and addresses “doing more with less.” This Proposal has been presented to the School Board as a pro-active way to address these three challenges. The Administration realizes that the proposed plan is a bold one. However, we simply cannot sit by and do nothing and hope that things will get better. School Districts in our area and all over the State are experiencing the same challenges that we are facing. I assure you that we are committed to continuing to remain an Excellent School District. We believe that this Proposal merits serious consideration because we believe that it will strengthen our ability to deliver instruction to our students while addressing declining enrollment and decreasing revenue. We are confident that this Proposal will save the District money.
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS PARENTS? We would like to hear from you. The more input that the Administration and the School Board have, the more informed decision we can make. I encourage you to contact your building principal to share your questions and concerns. You can also send e mails to me or to our other administrators by going to the District’s Website (www.westbranch.k12.oh.us) and accessing the Staff Tab. We have set up a Frequently Asked Questions Section on our Website and will continue to update it as questions come in.
WHEN WILL A DECISION BE MADE?   Before the end of March, we will either need to move forward with the Proposal, modify the Proposal, or refer the Proposal back to the Administration for further study. The bottom line…expenses need to be reduced for the next year and future years in order to keep our District operating effectively.
FINAL THOUGHT: Thank you in advance for your input and understanding. Let me assure you that moving students and staff is not something that the Administration or School Board takes lightly. These are really very challenging times, and we have to look at all alternatives for our District. I will keep you up-to-date as we move forward.
INFORMATIONAL MEETING: We will hold an Informational Meeting in the K-8 Cafeteria (Beloit Elementary/West Branch Middle School) at 7:00 p.m. on March 5, 2012.


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