Lawrence still a hot topic

NEW MATAMORAS – The vote to close Lawrence Elementary happened in March, but concerns and questions still arose at the Frontier Local School District Board of Education meeting Monday night as another substantial crowd turned out.

Superintendent Bruce Kidder made the announcement that all Lawrence Elementary students, unless they chose to do otherwise, would be sent to Newport Elementary.

Raising questions about everything from the busing issue to class sizes, citizens took to the microphone again for the meeting to further express concerns.

“We all knew this was coming and was going to happen, but we only put a Band-aid on what needs fixed,” said Jeannie Henthorn, of Sitka. “If we don’t pull together for a district we may as well give up and give it to the state.”

With Lawrence’s 40 students being sent to Newport, Kidder predicted the district would lose some of them to another district, and that a few may choose to go to New Matamoras.

The projected numbers, Kidder said, will most likely result in grades kindergarten through third being split into two classes at Newport to try and keep classroom sizes under 30 and kindergarten classes at about 18.

“After talking to my transportation director, he told me the best and easiest way to keep (Lawrence) kids off the bus for too long is to send them all to Newport,” Kidder said. “It isn’t perfect, some will still be on the bus for long times, but this is what we have.”

Arguing continued to ensue among the crowd about class sizes and about the idea of splitting students from the friends they have already made.

“We’re not growing. If we grow, I would like to worry about that problem, but the numbers we have now will fit in Newport,” Kidder said. “And I will split them up, and soon we will all learn to get along.”

Kidder also assured parents that because of the teachers from Lawrence that will continue working for the district and the extra classrooms Newport has to offer, that every student will receive their education with a decent ratio and inside real classrooms, and not supplemental trailers.

John Miller, a New Matamoras resident who has been on the forefront of the movement to redirect the district, addressed the crowd about the importance of passing a levy in November, as it is money alone that is the cause of their concerns.

“This is in our control to overcome to give them the money they need to do it,” Miller said. “Instead of saying the Lawrence people have to become (Newport) Trojans, I’d really like to just see them become (Frontier) Cougars; no 9New Matarmoas) Bulldogs, no Trojans, but all Cougars.”

Kidder and Treasurer Frank Antill explained that as the levy approaches, the district will come up with two millage rates, one that the district would need to pass to keep the two schools operating with kindergarten through sixth in each, and the rate the district would need to drop to a grade level system.

“If the levy passes, you all have to tell us whether you want the grade level system or not, that choice is up to you,” said board President Justin Hoff.

The grade level system, where all kindergarten through third graders would be in one building and all fourth through sixth graders in another, saves the district money by cutting down on teachers.

For the 2014-2015 school year, the two remaining elementary schools will stay functioning as kindergarten through sixth grade, as any changes will not take effect until the school year after.

“You cannot have your cake and eat it too,” Miller said. “You can yell at them all you want but it’s you that’s financing this, not them.”

In addition to the discussion about the future of the district’s schools, the board also:

Approved the resignation of Karla Coffman, a Title I teacher with 35 years of teaching experience

Approved the contracts of 16 teachers for the 2014-2015 school year

Introduced the Passport to Fishing program for third grade students for the spring: The program, sponsored by the sheriff’s department, provides lunch, fishing gear and lessons to students to teach them to be involved in “good” activities.