District to add two sixth grade classrooms to Cascades

The Lebanon Community School District is planning to add two sixth grade classrooms to Cascades School next year to help alleviate overcrowding at Seven Oak Middle School.

As board members mulled over three school configuration options presented by Superintendent Rob Hess at a March 19 meeting, they came up with a fourth.

About half an hour into the meeting Hess said he spoke with a couple of teachers from Cascades after his sent out a memo regarding configuration options on March 16.

“They said they would be willing to do two sixth grade classrooms at Cascades and basically open it up to any kids in the district that wanted to go,” Hess said. “It would make it easier to see if we could fill two classrooms full of kids from Cascades, Riverview and Green Acres.”

That option would take between 50 and 60 sixth graders out of Seven Oak Middle School, he said.

The board agreed that Cascades fifth graders would get preference and then the option would be open students at the other elementary schools.

“That’s a good approach,” said Board Chair Tom Oliver. “We’re not going to get where we want to overnight. When we go into our facilities study our objective will be we want to do K-6 everywhere.”

Oliver noted that with this plan the district would not have to spend money on modulars at the middle school to accommodate more students. The configuration also could be easily reversed if it didn’t work, he said.

“I’d rather spend money on teachers,” said board member Russ McUne.

In his March 16 memo Hess estimated the cost to add four teachers as $398,000.

Each of the three options Hess presented included hiring at least four full time equivalent teachers. Hess said one of the teachers would be for special education.

Board member Nick Brooks said adding four teachers “sounds right” but he also said there should be another counselor and asked about a food service assistant for Cascades.

LCSD Business Director Linda Darling said she spoke with Angie Gorman, Director of Nutrition Services, who said the district would need to add a half time food assistant at Cascades.

Regarding adding a counselor, Hess said a 700 to 1 ratio is not enough.

“At some point the community wants to go K-6,” Brooks said. “The problem is we don’t have a way to go K-6 very easily at this point,” Brooks said. “I don’t think this is a two-years situation, it’s more like four- or five-year situation.”

Oliver said he wanted to make sure the board and staff were thinking about students having access to electives, music and physical education.

Hess said he would have more definite numbers about sixth grade enrollment at Cascades by the April 12 board meeting, which also is the first budget committee meeting.

The board began discussing overcrowding at Seven Oak Middle School after former principal Wayne Reposa told the LCSD board that the 2017-18 school year was the first time in his six years as principal that staffing didn’t hold pace with student growth at the Dec. 14 board meeting. The increase in students is the result of a restructuring of Pioneer School from a K-8 school into K-6 in the spring of 2016.