New Castle News

February 27, 2013

New Castle school board: Consolidate in fall of 2014

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — New Castle school board members generally agree that no consolidation will take place until the Lockley school renovations are completed.

The board continued discussions last night about whether to move students into George Washington or consider other options while waiting for the early learning center construction progress.

The plans are to eventually consolidate Thaddeus Stevens, JFK and West Side schools under one roof at Lockley, once a $24 million renovation and addition there are built. The building then would house kindergarten through third grade.

Public board discussions last week centered on whether some consolidations should be made in advance for a cost-savings.

The board reached more definitive conclusions last night.

The members leaned upon advice from acting superintendent Stanley Magusiak, who recommended that because of bidding for positions and the potential disruption of the children’s education, that the consolidation should take place all at once at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

The school completion is scheduled for early January 2014, but the board members say they are skeptical of whether the contractors will adhere to that time frame.

Magusiak said it is his opinion that the board should not move toward consolidation until the Lockley building is finished,

“There are so many issues going on ... and you have a new superintendent coming in here,” he said. To consolidate during that process “is going to cause a lot of grief to a lot of people.”Educationally, if the district moves the students into the new building in mid-year, it will be a disruption, he said, “and I don’t agree with that.”

He said there will need to be a reconfiguration of classes and teachers.

“The timelines for this are just so tight. We’re hoping that building will be done just after the Christmas break next year. If we jump to do that then, that’s going to cause a lot of confusion.”

To wait for a fall 2014 opening, “in my heart, I think that’s the best thing to do for the kids,” Magusiak said.

If the project is finished on time, a question would be whether to move the kindergarten students from St. Joseph’s into the new school in mid-year with two smaller class sizes of 20, or to leave the new building empty until fall.

The district pays to rent space at St. Joseph’s, where there are 40 kindergartners and two teachers.

Board member Dr. Marilyn K. Berkely said she would like to see the contractors and architects live up to their completion date.

“Tell them to get it done,” she said. “We don’t want to wait another year. Where’s the savings?”

Magusiak said he could live with the kindergarten move in mid-year because the children would be moved with their teachers, to finish the year.

“What I couldn’t live with is moving first-graders in mid-year and having reconfiguration issues and (teacher) bidding issues,” he said.

Solicitor Charles Sapienza said if the board waits to consolidate in the fall of 2014 and doesn’t close any schools before that, it would not need to have a public hearing until a year from now.