ELKHART — All Elkhart Community Schools students will spend a slightly different amount of time in school next year, while some elementary students will attend a different school altogether.
The Elkhart School Board approved changes to its elementary school boundaries, busing plans and school start and end times at a meeting Tuesday morning, May 7, according to information from the school corporation.
Superintendent Rob Haworth explained at a few informational meetings earlier this year how the school system needed to make some major changes in its transportation plans to make up for a $2 million shortfall due to property tax caps.
Elkhart Community Schools has provided maps on its website of where the new boundaries for its elementary school districts will be, starting with the 2013-14 school year. Middle school and high school district boundaries are unchanged.
Roosevelt Elementary, which is a kindergarten through second-grade building, and Hawthorne Elementary, which is a third- through sixth-grade building, will also both become full elementary schools with kindergarten through sixth grades.
Along with the new elementary boundaries, schools will also run on different start and end times starting this fall.
Middle and high school students will have 10 minutes cut from their schedule, according to information from Elkhart schools. Those schools will begin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:45 p.m. Elementary school students will have 70 more minutes added to their school day, with school running from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The longer school day will provide more instructional time for science and social studies, as well as provide every student with at least one art class each week, according to Elkhart schools. Keyboarding will also be added to the elementary curriculum. The new schedule will also allow for the continuation of the existing beginning band and orchestra programs.
Haworth had explained in public information meetings that the staggered start and end times for the schools would allow fewer buses to be used. Drivers would work longer each school day, running multiple routes, but the school system would still save money overall, he had said.
Adriana Hernandez has two kids at Roosevelt and one at Hawthorne Elementary this year, but lives nearer to Hawthorne.
With a baby and no car, Hernandez is looking forward to next year when none of her kids will be at Roosevelt, so she won’t have to walk so far, pushing her youngest in a stroller, to meet her kids and walk them home,
“I think it’s more better for me,” she said.
She also likes the idea of them having more time in school, she said.
June Presberry has one child at Roosevelt and three at Hawthorne and also liked the idea of Roosevelt and Hawthorne both becoming kindergarten through sixth-grade buildings.
“It would be nice for all of them to go together,” she said.
The board also approved Tuesday morning for “choice” transfer students to continue attending their school of choice, but parents must provide transportation, according to information from the school system. Fifth-graders impacted by the boundary changes will be allowed to remain at their current school for their final year of elementary school if they apply for a choice transfer, though parents must also provide transportation to the school.
Haworth had said at earlier meetings that it was very important to not have to borrow from the school system’s general fund, which covers teachers and classroom expenses, to pay transportation costs and to maintain the quality of Elkhart’s bus drivers. Haworth said that, when faced with transportation budget issues, school districts could cut drivers’ wages and benefits, but “we need bus drivers who care about the students they’re transporting. We don’t just want them to haul cargo.”
The district will also save money by not replacing the positions of approximately 30 teacher and administrator employees, according to information from the school system. The transportation costs will allow Elkhart Community Schools “to offset much of the substantial funding cut without increasing class sizes or cutting academic programs.”