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Sunday, February 7, 2016

#RHschoolboard Questions and Administration Answers for Feb 8 Work Session

·         Last year there was a lengthy discussion about spring break, and conversation re. " always having it the first week of April to make planning easier for people." There is nothing in policy about this, but apparently this had been a prior tradition. I notice that spring break is not the first week of April, what's the thought process behind this? 

I will certainly have more information on Monday. Results from a stakeholder input survey combined with the directive of the calendar committee, spring break is proposed to be the second week of April. Survey results will indicate a desire to align the break with other districts in the county.... results from students, teachers, parents, and administrators all favored aligning with other districts.

In reviewing the minutes of last year's calendar approval discussion, there was lengthy conversation regarding aligning or not aligning. No action was taken to make the conversation turn into a policy or rule. 

Other differences on the calendar (compared to the current year) will be explained on Monday. For instance, building in inclement weather days without using teacher workdays or PD days. Another is the placement of workdays/PD days during the year to coincide with grading periods. 
·          We should explain what our relationship is with Head Start at the meeting. For example, are we required to provide space?
o   Project Head Start is a federal program serving low income pre-school children in our area.  Carolina Community Actions, Inc. (CCA) was established in 1966 to administer the Head Start program in the region, including York County.  While housed in other facilities during its first 15 years, including Sunset Park School, the program in Rock Hill/York County is currently housed in a former elementary building still owned by the Rock Hill School District, The Edgewood Center.  The district out-leased a portion of this building to CCA in September 1996, with annual renewals since.  As of 2007, the lease was operated on an “automatic renewal” amendment. This action was stopped in February, 2014. The district is not required to provide space for Head Start, but has continued to out-lease to CCA “in mutual desire to increase the educational opportunities of disadvantaged youth within the Landlord’s attendance area.” 
·          What is the fair market value we give to Head Start for our $1 a year rent? 
o    The terms of the existing out-lease are for $1.00 per year.  Using the comparable rental / lease amount for institutional space, the fair market value for space subsidized “in-kind” under the current agreement would be $8.00 per square foot per year.  With current SF used (beyond original lease), this value would be $320,000.00 per year.
·          What have we spent over the last three years for roof maintenance at Edgewood?
o    Expenditures for roof maintenance in this period have been minimal, coincident with the understood course of action described in question 4, below.  Work has been limited to basic preventive maintenance and emergency and service call response.
·         Why was the eminent failure of the Edgewood roof not discussed with the board before the bond referendum? 
o   The Board was advised in Executive Session on several occasions from April 22, 2013 through August 11, 2014 of the very poor conditions of the roof and other major systems in the Edgewood Building.  These conditions were discussed in the framework of a sale of the property, due to lack of funds to replace major systems, and the recommendation that the scope of repairs required exceeded the appraised value of the building and grounds. 
o   The Board was specifically advised and acknowledged our intent to sell the property in executive session February 2014, prior to issuance of our letter 26 Feb 2014 indicating to CCA our decision to sell the building and the termination of the “automatic renewal” feature of the out-lease agreement. Active marketing of the property began at that time. 
o   At the subsequent renewal of the lease during the fall of 2014 the Board was again advised of the major building component condition, and our intention to sell rather than program repairs.  At this time a concern was raised that the building not be sold until/unless alternative accommodation was made for the Head Start program.  Discussions with CCA for alternatives development continued through the winter of 2014-15 and the spring “bond referendum campaign” season. Board member actions during this period include unannounced visits to the facility and suggestions of possible agencies that might purchase the facility.

·          We recently Air Conditioned the kitchen. How much did this cost? If there was an eminent failure, why did we spend it?
o    There is no record of any recent District installed air conditioning systems at Edgewood Center.  The kitchen is equipped with one package-type heat pump, installed in 2001, and two split system air conditioning units, with electric strip heaters, installed in 1999.  Some kitchen cooking equipment was installed recently, using the district’s Proprietary (600) Fund, but this equipment is not built in and will be transferred according to our equipment management process for use elsewhere.
·          The administration was asked to look into a long term lease for the facility, allowing Head Start to be able to justify long term maintenance - such as roofs. What is the status of that request?
o    The issue was pursued in negotiation meetings held during 2015.  CCA was unable to agree to this due to the scale of the repairs required.
·          Do we already have a buyer for the property and is that purchase contingent on availability by this fall?
o    No.
·          How much of Edgewood is being used and, if there is a roof failure, are there available classrooms they can move into?
o    CCA is occupying almost all of the facility.  We do not recommend occupancy of the building should a roof failure occur.
·          Are there enough early childhood classrooms at Sylvia Circle for Head Start and the K3 - 2 program? Will they be able to remain separate?
o    Yes.
·          What happens to the kitchen staff at Head Start and Sylvia Circle?
o    Both kitchens are operated by our Food Service Department.  Upon closure of the Edgewood kitchen district and/or Sodexo staff would be re-assigned according to district personnel rules and/or Sodexo company policy, as applicable.
·          What will be the grade level student size for the addition at Ebenezer and how does that compare to the current Montessori capacity?
o   Projections for the Charrette Design Team for this program used the current enrollment for Montessori grades, with allowance for growth in the coming years.  Preliminary conceptual plans for the addition will be presented at the upcoming work session by the CMO and Team Architects assigned.
·          What will be the cost for the addition and where will the money come from?
o    The preliminary conceptual plans, with preliminary (planning level) opinion of cost for capital improvements will be presented at the upcoming work session.  Funding for the capital improvements will be requested from within existing tax millage as part of the 2017 Capital Improvements Program, to be presented to the Board upon approval of the Choice Program Improvement Plan.
·          What changes will be required at Ebenezer, the cost, and where will the money come from?
o    Alterations to core capacity spaces such as the cafeteria are being developed as part of the Charrette Design Team’s work. The preliminary conceptual plans, with preliminary (planning) opinion of cost for capital improvements will be presented at the upcoming work session.  Funding for the capital improvements will be requested from within existing tax millage as part of the 2017 Capital Improvements Program, to be presented to the Board upon approval of the Choice Program Improvement Plan.
·          What are the busing costs and how will this be managed?
o    New busing plans, with associated costs for the new Ebenezer campus are being developed as part of the overall district plan for all of the Choice Program Improvement Plan.  Plans and costs will be presented at the upcoming work session.
·          Are there other options for Head Start, in the short term, than going to Sylvia Circle? Such as Trinity, where Riverview is now located?
o    Available space owned by the district would require alterations to be made classroom ready, at significant cost and time.  Leasing of space from known commercial or institutional sources would be at approximately $8.50 per square foot for the year.  This cost is significantly beyond the ability of Head Start or the district (general fund) to pay.  This would require termination of the lease and would require Head Start to move two times in two years.
·          Would it make more sense to convert Sylvia Circle 3,4, & 5 to inquiry next year and then move the whole school over at one time. Parents last night were concerned families would leave the school because of the split and fewer would then move to Ebenezer. This would also save on busing costs.
o    Advice was provided by qualified district staff that this was not feasible due to the point now reached more than three years after the need for urgent repairs and the recommendation of sale of property was made.  Since a second opinion has been required, an independent engineering firm has been hired to conduct a facilities condition assessment, determining the degree of risk should the current tenants remain in the building for another year or more.  A preliminary summary report will be made available prior to the upcoming work session.
·          What will be the cost to tear down the "Parent Smart" building and where will that money come from? What are the plans for the space where the building now sits?
o    Typical demolition costs for buildings like the one housing the ParentSmart program are $10.00 per square foot.  Funds for this work will be available from within existing tax millage as part of the Facilities Five Year Plan, and are expected to be part of the 2018 Capital Improvements Program, to be presented to the Board for approval at the appropriate time.  Plans for the land where the building now sits, as well as the district-owned land parcels across Orange Street will be developed as part of the ongoing Facilities Master Planning Process.

·          Can someone investigate the Lexington 4 program?  If a K3 program would improve district academic performance why would we restrict the number of students to put on scholarship to 20 if we have the classroom space and could add teachers? (The information below was obtained by talking with Dr. Nancy Busbee (Title One Coordinator in Lex 4 and Linda Lavender Superintendent)
Three and Four year old program (is this for personnel only) 
Title I, CDEP, and local funds cover the cost of the personnel.  The percent of the split changes every year. (Rock Hill does not receive CDEP funds)
The ECC is our only Title I school, so you can see the commitment of Lex 4 for early childhood.

Instructional Coach/Professional Development 
Academic Coach is funded through Title I. Materials to support balanced literacy
Not a lot of Title I here.

Parent Involvement
ECC conducts a week of parenting classes during the morning hours.  Title I helps a little with the materials for this.

First Steps also funds Parents as Teachers program for Birth to Three year olds (conduct at least 2 home visits a month for about a dozen families during the year) and Jumpstart (a 9 week program in fall and spring for parents and their two year olds to come in twice a week for a mini-Montessori experience that includes a Raising a Reader program.

In talking with Linda Lavendar, Superintendent, she explained that students have scored higher with the assessments above, but they have not seen huge gains in state testing.  The slides above were shared with us from Lexington 4.
·           What was the original goal for Montessori at Sylvia Circle and has it been successful? I cannot speak to the original goal for Montessori, but I can comment on goals now.  We understand that not all children learn the same way, and that parents are looking for Choice.  Montessori is a research-based option that is good for students.  If we do not offer our community high quality Choice options, we are going to continue seeing families leave our district for other entities that offer this or other Choice options.
·          What measurements have we used to monitor success of the program? We use our current MAP and state assessment data in addition to other local assessments (F&P, etc.).  While we serve limited 3K and 4K students in our Montessori program, we review the success of 4K in our District and (as shared with the board earlier), there is a positive academic gain for students who attend our 4K programs.  I do believe, that if we are going to offer Montessori, we need to allow teachers the flexibility to implement the program with as much fidelity as possible understanding that there are some differences in timing of standards, etc.
·          What is the current cost and for the program and the expected cost for the new program?  Currently, the Montessori school Grades 5K-5th are staffed as other elementary schools in the District, so there is no additional cost in teachers.  The District does offset some of the costs for the 3K and 4K teachers (I will need to get dollar amount) that is not required by the state.  The school/district does pay for Montessori training for administrators and K3-2nd grade teachers.  The training is expensive, but we also offer training and professional development for other teachers and programs.  We will provide the costs of training on Monday evening.
·          What District areas are not being addressed (Finley Road, transient students, for example) and the timeline for addressing them?’
See Below:
Under-enrollment at Ebenezer Avenue and Sylvia Circle Eliminating Parent Smart Building by moving them to Sylvia Circle and better utilizing existing, efficient facilities.
Opportunity for increased enrollment at South Pointe High School (STEM)
Opportunity for increased enrollment at York Road Elementary and Rawlinson Road Elementary based upon recommendation from fine arts feasibility study.  (Northside has little to no room for growth. This program is very popular, and we hope to be able to offer to more students by expanding to York Road.)
Belleview Elementary- will receive zoned Sylvia Circle students allowing for an increase in its capacity.  We may move some special education classes to Lesslie Elementary allowing for the accommodation of new students at Belleview and will increase enrollment at Lesslie.
Ebinport and Richmond Drive’s over-enrollment will be addressed with recommendation of new facility for language immersion.
Finley Road- We are looking at Finley Road for growth of other programs such as Inquiry.  We will not make those recommendations until the 2017-2018 school year.

·         Clear plan on how to make the first year with split grades easier on parents (staggered schedule, shuttle service, etc.?)  There will be a clear plan for making the split grades easier for parents.  At a minimum, a shuttle will be provided for parents.
·         Clear plan on how the division between “Montessori/inquiry administrators” will related to current administrators. Will it be a school within a school, or will we have 4 administrators at the site starting 2017… about next year? Two at k-2 Montessori and Chris Beard and his AP over Inquiry?  This needs to be discussed in Executive Session.
·         In regards to the data about the 5% rule. If I understood Luane Kokolis right we are not basing Kindergarten enrollment based on the policy, and it is my understanding that we are not monitoring it or necessarily enforcing it at all  (per her email and last night’s conversation). I have to be really honest when I say this gives me some heartache, the policy was there to prevent the possibility of certain schools being depleted. As is evident by the enrollment data as well as the numbers we got this IS happening….specifically at Lesslie and Finley Road. What is the plan to address this? Why is the 5% rule not followed if it is in policy? Every kindergarten clearly have a zoned school per their homeadress so I don’t understand the reasoning.  Are you recommending we change it? If so, how will we break the trend?  We have been following the rule.  What was communicated at the board meeting was that we look at grade level enrollment in a school to determine 5% each year.  During the application process each spring we would look at applications for each school and we would permit 5% of a grade level to enter a choice school, if there were slots.  Each spring starts a new 5%, it was not intended to be a cumulative number.

Yes, we would have the home address for the K-5 to determine school zone, but at the time of application we do not have the total K-5 for the upcoming year.  K-5’s enroll through spring and summer and the final total grade level number would not be known until the start of a school year, 7 months after the application time period.  We only know the number of K-5’s that are applying so we have no total number to take 5%. The policy does need to have clear wording.  By offering choice with a grade level cap, we are restricting opportunities.  Perhaps we need wording that clearly delineates that the 5% is not cumulative and suggest that the cap perhaps be 10%.

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