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Hillcrest fifth grade move to EMS proposed

The continuing space crunch at Hillcrest Elementary School was discussed at the Ellsworth School Board meeting Monday.

Overcrowding has had Title I and special education programs sharing the same space in the school, Superintendent Dan Kaler said. The library has been taken over for other purposes and music is being taught from a cart.

Options have been considered by a committee including a representative from each grade, the principal, the curriculum and instruction director and Kaler, he said. They examined possibilities such as moves to free up classrooms at the high school for fifth grade, another elementary grade or even a kindergarten center. Ultimately, they recommended moving the fifth grade to the middle school.

"It's not uncommon for a fifth grade to be part of a middle school," the superintendent said, pledging school officials would work hard to make a smooth transition.

Two self-contained classrooms are envisioned for the fifth graders, he said. Those students would follow the middle school schedule and be transported to and from school with the EMS students. They'd take art and physical education from middle school teachers; music teachers would travel from the elementary school to instruct them in that subject.

Kaler said the middle school building was built to accommodate 600 students and its student population next year would be approximately 400 without Hillcrest's fifth graders, so their move there should work well.

The board decided to delay action until next month's regular meeting.

Other elementary school enrollment projections for next year were addressed by the superintendent. Kindergarten numbers, now at 120, are expected to be down to around 106 or 108. Overall, the same number of elementary sections is foreseen, though adding a fifth grade at Lindgren and dropping a fourth grade at Prairie View are planned.

The possibilities of shifting some fourth graders from Hillcrest to Sunnyside and shuttling some students from Lindgren to Prairie View are being weighed, he said.

Budget adjustments made

A recommendation by the district's budget advisory committee for 2006-07 budget adjustments was approved by the board Monday.

Actions to pare $470,000 from that budget were taken. Since the committee compiled the adjustments list, an item calling for one block of vocal and one block of instrumental music to be switched from the high school to the middle school has been changed to one-half block of each, Kaler said. Additionally, a music intern won't be eliminated, as was originally proposed.

Otherwise, the list the board accepted stayed the same. In reviewing it, the superintendent emphasized school officials will make every effort to assure a quality special education CDS program is operated here; that program will no longer be contracted through the River Falls district, except Ellsworth's high school participants will remain there through graduation.

Later, Harlen Menk of Ellsworth encouraged the board to think about holding a districtwide referendum next year in response to what has become an annual need for budget adjustments.

In other business Monday:

--A change from summer to spring baseball won board approval. Athletic Director Mark Stoesz proposed the change in light of Somerset's discontinuance of summer ball, meaning Ellsworth would be one of only three teams left in the Middle Border Conference with it, losing MBC affiliation, having no prospects for post-season honors and facing difficulty finding competitors. Stoesz admitted spring participation numbers could be affected by the local track and cross-country programs, yet girls softball has long competed with girls track, he reminded. There will be six teams involved in the spring, including Ellsworth, and a limit of 20 games.

--A long-term plan for housing the district's maintenance department, presently in the former junior high building (Ames Business Center), was unveiled. Rick Kornmann of a special committee formed about the issue said building a new structure, seeking other facilities in the community or remaining in the existing facility were among options considered. However, the committee recommends moving maintenance office and storage to room 192 at the high school, which is near the boiler room and vocational education shop area. An alternative education room would be moved to EHS' second floor due to this. Meantime, storage racks would be moved to the district's bus garage and a slab poured plus roof built over chiller equipment. Stagecraft items would stay at the old EJHS. The project would begin in June to be done by next April at an estimated cost of $7,000. The board delayed action on the recommendation until next month's meeting.

--In personnel changes, the board approved hiring Kelei Johnson as food service worker at Lindgren, laying off Kim Cory as vocal music instructor at the middle school (a position to be reduced from full-time to 67 percent time) and the resignation of Doug Fahrendorff as fifth grade teacher at Hillcrest.

--Regarding this year's school calendar, a staff development day was approved for Thursday, June 8, with Wednesday, June 7, to be the final student day and Friday, June 9, the final teacher in-service day.