Seven Oak growing past expectations

Seven Oak Middle School administrator at the Dec. 14 school board meeting segued into a discussion about the combined challenges of increased enrollment, classroom size and fewer teachers that the school is facing this year.

Principal Wayne Reposa added a section of slides to his presentation that was not included with the information he originally submitted for the Lebanon Community School District Board packet.

This is his sixth year as principal and it is the first year staffing didn’t pace with student growth, Reposa said.

Seven Oak enrollment increased by more than 70 students but is down by three classroom teachers, he said, which has led to larger class sizes.

He said part of the reason is the shift of students from 2015-16 school year.

“We started a process of moving towards a K-6 model, as a district,” Reposa said. “In this process I got to speak to families over at Pioneer and they bought in to the idea of becoming a K-6 and started making plans for those students to come to us.”

The elementary schools were going to become K-6 schools and Seven Oak was going to become a junior high school, rather than have sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

“Halfway through this process, this process stopped,” he said. “We had families advocate, which is what they have a right to do, particularly from two schools, and so the process wasn’t complete. We continued to take the Pioneer that were planned, but the sixth graders that were going to stay behind didn’t stay behind.”
Reposa said he has met with district administrators half a dozen times since the 2015-16 school year to talk about the issue.

Seven Oak was forecasted to have 600 students, but they started the year with 671, he said.

Reposa said he met again with district administrators and “out of that conversation was this idea to come up with a proposal.”

He didn’t want to move the problem from one place to another, so he said he spoke with the administrators from the feeder schools.

Instead of putting together a proposal, he put together three “different frameworks of thinking that we might move toward as we’re moving forward and figuring out how to support Seven Oak.”

The first choice was to not change anything, which he said would result in larger class sizes.

He also said the hallway space is crowded.

“We have 600 lockers in the school, and 70 more students,” he said.

Some students are sharing lockers.

Another option is a hybrid model, in which some sixth-graders stay back at the K-6 schools, which he doesn’t see as a long-term plan.

The last framework is planning for the future.

“Even though we may not be able to get there today, having a plan at least moving forward,” Reposa said. “I know as far as myself and my staff, that we’re definitely feeling the stress and the pressure of the kids this year, but if we knew that there was a potential outcome coming in two years, that we could probably weigh that storm.”

There is a sense of hopelessness because there is not any solution on the horizon, he said.

Superintendent Rob Hess said some of the data Reposa presented regarding class size is different from the information he has and that some of the classes are smaller.

When Reposa asked him which classes, Hess said they could meet and go over it later but that part of the problem is that Reposa did not include the slides with this information with the board packet.

Board member Russ McUne said Reposa’s proposals were off the mark.

“We might need another middle school,” he said.

The issues need to be addressed now, rather than wait until April, May or June to make decisions and work the issue, it’s too late, said board member Nick Brooks.

Brooks added that he would have preferred Reposa included the class size information with the board packet but the board still needs to talk about and get something figured out.

“We talk about rigor a lot,” Brooks said to Hess. “What’s the rigor we’re going to have with this, coming up with a plan?”

Hess said they could make it a topic at the next board meeting.

Click here to watch a video of the Dec. 14 meeting.