Elementary school has a new name, but Line Mountain retains sense of community
Editor's note: This is the fourth article in a series on local schools starting a new year.
TREVORTON - It will mark a new era when 468 students step into the newly named Line Mountain Elementary School Wednesday.
Elementary principal Jeanne Menko, however, doesn't regard it as especially different.
"We've been Line Mountain for 45 years. I think we are a community," she said. "We may have had our children in three different schools, but we are a community."
The school board voted last year to close Dalmatia and Leck Kill and send all students in kindergarten through fourth grade to the Trevorton campus, and rename the building Line Mountain Elementary School. Construction of a new wing is wrapping up to accommodate the extra students.
Meanwhile, the district's fifth- and sixth-grade students, grades that were taught at Trevorton Elementary for the last several years, will join seventh- and eighth-graders in a new middle school wing at the junior/senior high school campus in Mandata.
The changes finalize years of debate and preparation for consolidating the district's four community elementaries into one school in an effort to save money. West Cameron Elementary School closed in 2001.
Continued increases in salaries and health care and pensions costs, combined with a state subsidy reduction two years ago to 2007-08 pre-federal stimulus funding levels, finally forced the board majority to vote in favor of elementary consolidation.
'I'm not nervous'
Menko expects a normal first day of school.
"They will do the same thing elementary teachers have been doing since day one," she said.
Menko will greet students in an auditorium assembly, then send them with their teachers to classrooms. The teachers will explain rules and what's expected, and school will officially begin.
"I know my staff, and I know we're going to do this and we're going to do this well," she said. "I'm not nervous."
Custodians and other maintenance staff have gone "above and beyond" in helping bring three schools into one, she said.
"It was a mountain, and they just tackled it. I can't thank or praise them enough," Menko said.
She said it took a year of transition meetings, unifying activities and planning to create a smooth transition.
Zartman Construction, Trevorton, is the contractor for both the elementary and middle school additions.
The three-story elementary building at 542 W. Shamokin St. (Route 225), on 2.5 acres of land between Fifth and Sixth streets, will house 106 kindergarten students, 76 first-graders, 95 second-graders. 93 third-graders and 98 in fourth-graders.
The $1.9 million addition, under construction at the northwest corner of the campus near the intersection of Shamokin and Sixth streets, will add two additional rooms to each of three floors. The bottom level, where there are currently three rooms, will also have a computer lab and an art room. The middle level, where 13 classrooms currently exist, will also include two kindergarten classrooms. The top floor will expanded from 14 classrooms to include two fourth-grade rooms.
In total, there will be 38 instructional rooms.
Each grade will have five classrooms, except for first grade, which will have just four. Each classroom will include a mix of students from all three former schools, Menko said.
A $3.6 million addition is being added to the seventh- and eighth-grade wing at the southern end of the Mandata campus. That will increase the number of classrooms from nine to 24 in that wing.
The wing will host 403 middle school students, including 106 in fifth, 99 in sixth, 102 in seventh and 96 in eighth.
Just two principals
There will be no loss of teaching staff districtwide, said Superintendent Dave Campbell, and each teacher in the elementary will remain at the same grade level as last school year.
Menko will still be principal of the fifth- and sixth- grade students, as well as the kindergarten through fourth-grade group. High School Principal Jeffrey Roadcap will assist as needed with fifth and sixth because he's at the same campus.
At this point, there is no plan to hire a middle school principal. Campbell said the two-principal concept will be tested this school year and adjustments will be made next year if necessary.
The school board voted Aug. 13 to officially name its realigned schools Line Mountain Elementary School, Line Mountain Middle School and Line Mountain High School, the latter losing its hyphenated "junior-senior" moniker.
Campbell reports there are otherwise no significant changes in curriculum or policies. Some safety measures have been added in light of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, he said.
$540,000 in savings
Consolidation is expected to save the district $540,000 in operational costs and staffing, Campbell said.
He said 13 positions were eliminated or not filled, including two custodians, four aides, four cafeteria workers, a nurse and two retiring/resigning teachers.
No one has otherwise lost a teaching job since summer 2011, Campbell said.
"It was something we needed to do. It was inevitable," he said.
Every student will now receive the same services and the grade levels will be "truly balanced."
"That's what's most important," Campbell said.
Because of construction issues, the school board decided last week to delay the start of the new year by two days. Teachers, meanwhile, begin today.
To make up the two days, the district will use Nov. 11 and Jan. 20 rather than extend the school year.
After attending next Wednesday and Thursday, the district's 1,288 students will get a four-day weekend from Aug. 30 through Sept. 2.