Emery School Board discusses school enrollment decline
Superintendant Kirk Sitterud reported to the Emery County School Board at their meeting in Castle Dale that enrollment is down in the county. This was not totally unexpected because the projections were the district would be down 17 students this year. On day one of the return to school, the district had declined 40 students. Since Aug. 19, the first day of school, the district has picked up 16 students and the total decline is 24 students. Total enrollment countywide is 2,231 students. Book Cliff Elementary has an increase of 22 students.
Sitterud said the decline in students has put pressure on staffing. Elementary schools are starting to grow again, but the secondary schools are down 46 students. The secondary schools will continue to decline for four-five years afterwhich they will hopefully grow.
Sitterud presented a 16 year enrollment analysis to the board. The last year of growth was 1993 when enrollment peaked at 3,429 students. Since that year there has been a steady decline in enrollment to the present total of 2,231 students for a decline of 1,198 which is a decline of 35 percent in 15 years. On a school by school basis there has been a 12 percent increase at Book Cliff Elementary, 34 percent decline at Castle Dale Elementary; 31 percent at Cleveland Elementary; 36 percent decline at Cottonwood Elementary; 35 percent decline at Ferron Elemenary; 18 percent decline at Huntington Elementary; 53 percent decline at Canyon View Junior High; 57 percent decline at San Rafael Junior High; 3 percent increase at Green River High and a 35 percent decline at Emery High.
The board wondered what the enrollment requirements were for a school to be in the 2A classification. The cut-off number is 499 students. Emery High sits at 469 students for this year. Emery High could be reclassified as 2A, but in the last reclassification they were left at 3A. Sitterud said right now they are happy where they are in 3A and you have to consider the travel distances involved between 2A and 3A classifications.
"We are optimistic with our elementary growth. It's hard to balance the staff, hard and expensive," said Sitterud.
Sitterud also told of the new state board rule for vending machine sales during school hours. The new rules will restrict the sale of foods with minimal nutritional value. This would eliminate the sale of soda pop. The school board will need to write their rules which match the state school board's rules. Some of the secondary schools rely on these revenues from the sale of vending machine items. By January the rules need to be in place. The rules would not affect what can be sold at concession stands during events.
Sitterud said this is not something that can be taken lightly. Childhood obesity is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed.
Sitterud said he attended a governor's panel meeting where they talked about testing. They are considering doing away with the Core testing, Iowa testing; which is a national test and the UBSC Test which all 10th graders must pass before they can graduate. They are considering on line adaptive testing in K-12 which would test three times a year in reading, writing, and ELL (English Language Learners). Students would all be required to take the ACT.
They are also exploring an eighth grade test which will test the students preparation for high school. An acuplacer test in 11th grade is also being considered before registration for the senior year. Sitterud didn't agree with that test because he said one test cannot determine how ready a student is to take college classes and the Advanced Placement classes could suffer.
If all the new testing is implemented it would result in an increase in testing. The cost of maintaining the computers for the online testing could also be significant. Sitterud viewed most of the proposed changes as being valuable because they can show which areas teachers can best help students. His fear is that instead of eliminating the present testing, it will create another track of testing, one being state and one federal. "We'll see where it goes," said Sitterud.
Marie Guymon, board member mentioned that Utah's third grade classes placed third in the nation in reading scores.
Sitterud said Emery County has never had a school on program improvement for No Child Left Behind. There are 45 targets which must be met. If a school fails in one area then the entire school doesn't meet Adequate Yearly Progress. Sitterud thinks that might change by 2013 when each child must score three-four on core testing, and with special needs students sometimes that just isn't possible. "We are very proud of our schools," said Sitterud.
This panel is made up of the state superintendant who is the chairman, two school district superintendants, business leaders and legislators.
Sitterud talked about the English Language Learners and the family literacy center. The district submitted a plan to set up two of these centers in the county. One at Huntington Elementary and one at Book Cliff Elementary. To begin with the program will help the ELL students with homework. Eventually the program will be opened up to help their parents learn English language skills. The center will also translate school bulletins into Spanish to send home with students. Laura Blackwell at Huntington Elementary will work 30 hours per week with the family literacy center.
The lighting project at Emery High should be finished this week.
The board approved the family medical leave for Danielle Tuttle and Lara Barnett. The board approved the high school athletic schedules. Travel over 150 miles needs board approval. The state superintendant has also submitted a request to the Utah High School Athletics Association to reduce some competitions. Most sports will see a two game reduction, it wouldn't take affect for this year, but in the future, the reason behind the reductions was listed as travel expenses and lost time from school by the athletes.
New hires include: Vicky Martineau as a special education three hour aide at Huntington Elementary; Tami Rowley as a 19.5 hour special education aide at Canyon View Junior High. Lisa Winn as a three hour aide at Cleveland Elementary and Courtney Justice as a three hour library aide at Huntington Elementary; Shawna Carroll as a three hour preschool aide at Ferron Elementary and Amber Pittman as a kindergarten assistant at Huntington Elementary.
Two new positions have been added with the enhanced money from the extended kindergarten.
The cooling unit went out at Green River High and a new one will be installed for $36,600 from U.S. Air Conditioning Distributors. It will take five-six weeks for its arrival.