PRINCETON — Students living in Wyndale subdivision may not be leaving Melrose Elementary after all.
Mercer County Schools Superintendent Deborah Akers told a group of parents from the school that she had no immediate intention of making a recommendation to redistrict the school's attendance zones for the 2013-14 school year.
Akers said she believed an expected fourth-fifth split classroom would help alleivate immediate overpopulation concerns. However, she added that the school may once again be without a media center for the school year. The loss of the media center would depend on the number of Kindergarten students that enrolled at the school in the fall.
"For the past two years, we've been able to get by by having two classes of Kindergarten with two teachers at the maximum of 28," Akers told the parents. "This year, we had so many that we had to convert the media center."
In December, when Akers first brought the issue to the board's attention, she cited the conversion of the media center as a reason the board needed to look at redistricting the school's attendance zones. At the time, Akers told the board that the area around Wyndale subdivision was a candidate because of the growth in homes and the nearness of Athens School.
Athens School has space available due to the opening of PikeView Middle School. When PVMS opened, Athens sent its sixth, seventh and eighth graders to the new school, opening several rooms to house elementary age students.
As Board of Education President Greg Prudich had previously said, the addition of more homes into the area, would lead to more students at the school, thus making the problem a concern.
"I know we may not have to do anything this year," Prudich told the parents. "I'm still concerned that we're going to have to do something in the future because of the population boom in that area. What I don't want to have happen is that we're put in a position to where we have to take immediate action to solve the problem."
Prudich, Akers, and Assistant Superintendent Rick Ball reminded the parents that redistricting was only one option available to the board.
One option several parents suggested to the board was applying for funding from the state's school building authority to build an addition to the school.
However, a similiar proposal was rejected by the SBA in 2012 and the board believes Ceres Elementary School is a more pressing project.
"The concern with Ceres is being so close to a state highway," Ball said. "It's right at the front door of the school."
Board members Edward "Ted" Gillespie and Gilbert "Gene" Bailey used the subject of SBA funding as an avenue to ask for the public's help . Gillespie doesn't believe the distribution of money from the authority is fair and asked that the parents contact their representatives to suggest a more equitable distribution.
Bailey asked that the parents suggest another funding source. In his view, making investments in education through out the state would pay off. Currently, the SBA relies on the state lottery for funds. If another source were found, there would be more money available.
Another population boom in Princeton prevents the board from redistricting students from that side of the school's attendance zones. Any students that were moved from the school would attend already full Princeton Primary School. Also, the move would place those same schools in the attendance zones of Straley and Mercer Schools, which are both Schools of Choice, meaning students have the option of transferring out to another higher performing school, of which the nearest is Melrose.
Prudich confirmed that parents on that side of the Melrose attendance zone had little to fear in redistricting.
"I would think the closer you are to Princeton, the safer you would be," He told the parents.
Still another option is the addition of more classroom space at Melrose through private funds with a later match from the board.
Prudich told the parents that the board had match almost every similar request during his tenure on the board and that plans were already in place should the necessary funds become available.
Akers added that the addition of four classrooms as presented to the SBA would have cost 1.081 million in 2011. She estimated that the project would now cost around $1.1 million.
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