Forum on consolidation consideration held

Published 12:13 am Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Parents, teachers and community members expressed some concern for the Escambia County Board of Education’s consolidation consideration of A.C. Moore Elementary to Rachel Patterson and Escambia County Middle at a town hall like forum on April 6.

The consolidation, if approved by the board, would move Pre-K and third grades to RPES, and fourth grade to ECMS, all from ACM. RPES is currently a first and second grade school, while ECMS houses grades 5-8.

The community meeting, which was held at ACM, is one of many fact-finding ways the board has implemented during this process. The deadline for all information to be received to the board is April 21.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Superintendent John Knott said the board has already given the consideration to the state board, which will give an opinion on the matter. The board doesn’t have to vote based on what the state decides is best.

At the meeting, Knott talked about the consolidation consideration, and that the board is on a fact-finding mission to help make an informed decision on the consolidation.

ECMS Principal Debbie Bolden and ACM Principal John Brantley discussed the logistics of the consolidation, if it were to be approved, and parents and teachers gave their opinions and concerns about the issue.

The following were topics and quotes from the meeting:
On the consolidation consideration:

“This is nothing new,” Knott said. “In 2004, this original thought process was addressed and discussed with the board. In 2012, Mr. Little again presented the possibility of making this kind of move to the board.”

Knott said at the time, the board instructed Little to look at the facilities and make a recommendation to the board on how they should proceed. At the time, the recommendation was made to put an additional wing of 10 classrooms onto the facility at RPES to make the elementary school a K-4 school.

There are three main reasons — student safety, better grade transition and transportation routing — that are the driving force for the consideration.
Brantley on the organizational plan at RPES if the consolidation were to be approved:

“We have pretty much re-organized the school to house Pre-K on the same wing as kindergarten,” he said. “They will have their own separate classroom. Third grade would be at the end of the first grade hall. We feel that’s the best way to keep all of our grades together.”

Brantley said the Leader In Me program, which is up and running at ACM, will be a part of the Pre-K through third grade curriculum at RPES, if the consolidation was approved.
Bolden on fourth graders moving to the middle school:

“If the fourth graders come to the middle school, there will be four teachers here and two teachers here,” she said, pointing to an area of the school that’s separate from the fifth grade. “The only time our sixth graders come down this hall is to come up cafeteria for lunch. In the morning, buses unload here.”

Bolden said the school plans on running the same schedule for fourth and fifth grades, while the sixth, seventh and eighth graders will go from a seven-period day to a six-period day next year.
Teachers’ views:

If the consolidation goes through, it would move six teachers to both RPES and ECMS, which both schools have the adequate room to house them, Knott said.

Fourth Grade Teacher Anna Tingle asked Knott what his opinion will be to the board once his decision is made on the consolidation.

“At this point, I’m not ready to make a decision on that because I’m still gathering information,” he said. “We’re going to have a lot of parents and teachers who are not going to raise that hand. Before I make a decision on what my recommendation would be, I need to look at all of the recommendations and feedback we get.”

Angela Brown, also a fourth grade teacher, said teachers would like to know where they’re going to be parking next year once the new school year comes.

“We’re kind of stuck in limbo right now,” Brown said. “We’re a little traumatized, well, a lot traumatized. We’d like to know where we’re parking our vehicles at the beginning of school next year. We just feel like as soon as we can get the information, the better off we’re going to be.”

Tingle said she knows that a lot of people are working hard to make this work, and that enrollment is a factor in the move.

Knott countered by saying that the board evaluates school enrollment each year.

“We’ll have to look at it every year and look at the needs the school is having,” he said.

Tingle said this has been a very emotional time for the teachers.

“We are a family here,” Tingle said. “We spend more time with these people here at this school than we do our personal family. We all have had our crying moments about this, as it is a possibility. We are a family here. We don’t want to be split apart. I know we do what we do for the children, but happy employees produce good results, too.”