Several Reasons Behind Recent School Board Grade Realignment Decision

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After much debate and research, Carbon School District board members voted to move forward with grade realignment beginning next school year.

The board voted on Dec. 11 to reconfigure district schools. The decision will send ninth grade students in the Carbon School District to Carbon High where they will share a school with 10-12 grades. Sixth grade students will move to either Mont Harmon or Helper Junior High to join 7-8 graders.

Currently, several elementary schools within the district are operating at or above capacity. As of last week, the largest school in terms of enrollment was Castle Heights with 560 students. Schools are bursting at the seams and the problem initiated the grade realignment discussion, which began in June.

Since that time district officials have researched the matter and accepted public comment regarding the proposed change. During town hall meetings last month, many parents voiced their concerns over moving students to different schools. Board members took this information into consideration prior to voting last week. Despite the opportunity to address any final concerns before the board, no public comments were made at the Dec. 11 meeting.

Although exact details of the alignment have not been finalized, the school board voted in favor of the change. The only board members to vote against the proposal were Jeff Richens and Wayne Woodward.

Each board member was candid about their feelings toward grade realignment. Woodward explained that he is concerned that a decision is being made too hastily.

“Are we moving too fast,” he questioned prior to voting. “Would it be better to continue to develop a plan and not move on this before next school year?”

“I’m afraid if we wait, we will talk this issue to death,” stated district superintendent Steve Carlsen. “I believe in this configuration and if it doesn’t work, you will have a different superintendent in a few years.”

Board member Kristen Taylor explained that she feels the move will benefit students most.

“Let’s be realistic about our kids. The US is behind in academics from the rest of the world,” she explained. “Let’s step it up and send our kids out who can legitimately compete in the world.”

Taylor went on to explain that her decision to move forward with grade realignment is based on her belief that students will benefit from the change.

“Our teachers and superintendent have all come together and have worked well on this,” she stated. “Everyone wants what is in the best interest of the district and our kids.”

School board member Jeff Richens explained that he still has too many unanswered questions to move forward with a vote.

“I feel that this is going to happen one way or the other,” he explained prior to the vote. “If we table the issue for another 28 days, it won’t delay implementation, but it will allow research and we won’t do something irresponsibly.” These concerns led to Richens voting against the grade reconfiguration during the board meeting.

District board member Melanie Fausett explained that she has been researching other schools in the state who have already made a similar grade alignment change.

“The first year will be rough. There’s no doubt about that,” she explained. “There is a lot of change to come and it will take time to work things out. However, let’s be the leaders, take charge and increase student success.”

Finally, board member Lee McCourt explained that she feels the change is needed.

“If we don’t make this change, then other changes will need to happen,” she explained.

Although a finalized plan was not available at the time of the vote, board members feel that through diligent planning and research, the grade alignment change will be ready for implementation by August 2014. Beginning in January, plans will be presented during regular school board meetings.

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