BULLHEAD CITY — Bullhead City school board members on Thursday approved by a 3-2 vote a realignment that will include grouping junior-high students by grade level rather than geography.
The changes also mean the district will have three K-4 elementary campuses next school year, and will start an alternative school.
Board President Dennis Crane and members Melinda Sobraske and Cynthia Cochran supported the proposal, while members Doug Lutz and Maureen Anderson each cast “no” votes.
Anderson said her vote was based on direction from constituents.
“It’s what the children spoke,” she said after the meeting. “It’s what the parents spoke.”
Lutz said that he would have liked more time to study information provided at the meeting, given the impact a decision would have on students and their families.
“I wanted to give it more thought than we were able to do in an hour, an hour and a half,” Lutz said.
Next year, all of the district’s fifth- and sixth-graders will attend a middle school at the current Bullhead City Junior High campus. Fox Creek Junior High will host grades 7 and 8.
Desert Valley, Diamondback and Sunrise elementaries will be K-4 schools, with the population of Coyote Canyon Elementary disbursed among them. The Coyote Canyon campus will house the Bullhead City Elementary School District’s new alternative school as well as an expanded preschool.
CRUHSD Academy, the home for online and alternative programs of the Colorado River Union High School District, will relocate there as well.
Sobraske said she liked the idea of an alternative school and expanded preschool. She said that a December visit to Granite Mountain Middle School, a 5-6 campus in Prescott, helped sway her.
“The sixth-graders were more comfortable (sharing space with) fifth-graders than they are with the eighth-
graders,” she said.
District administrators said that the changes would have fiscal benefits for the BHCESD and provide more academic opportunities for students.
For example, Supt. Riley Frei said, having all eighth-graders at one school could permit a section of geometry to be added to the existing choices of algebra or eighth-grade math, because of student numbers that justify it.
Conner Beardsley, speaking for a group of Fox Creek students, spoke against the proposed change, calling it an unnecessary transition, and citing concerns about increased competition for slots on sports teams. He handed the board a petition signed by other students, and mentioned that just one of 35 students polled by his group supported the change.
Teacher and parent Geni Borland asked the board to seek more information.
“Talk to your teachers,” she said. “Talk to your parents. I urge you to investigate all options before making your decision.”
Borland said that parents were not involved in meetings leading up to the suggestion, as many took place on weekday mornings.
Borland said that the proposal represented yet another change in a period of a few years during which a number of other changes have been implemented.
She also expressed concern about longer times on buses for some students.
Frei defended the changes in areas that included curriculum and academic calendars.
“I’m very confident in saying the programs we’re offering today are better than 10 years ago,” he said.
Frei said that administrators, instructional coaches and parents from each school had several meetings to discus the pros and cons of realignment.
“We’re presenting a model I think will improve efficiency and effectiveness for our children,” he said. “It’s not a convenient model for everyone ... it’s a better model than the one we’re using now.”
The alternative school, Frei said, will provide an option for children who have been expelled or placed on long-term suspensions.
He said that the BHCESD won’t have to hire a principal or counselor, because the high school district covers those. The districts share administrative staff.
K-8 and high school students will be separated, Frei said.
Next week, district leaders will start placing administrators at campuses for 2018-19, Frei said. Later, preferences and qualifications of returning teachers will be determined, with contracts going out the first week of March.
Assignments for next school year should be finalized later in that month, Frei said, and professional development activities will be geared toward helping with the transition.
Teachers of electives will be able to split time between the 5-6 and 7-8 campuses, Frei said.
In May, he said, students will take field trips to familiarize themselves with their new campuses.
Crane thanked Beardsley and his peers for attending the meeting.
“Coming to meetings like this is how it’s done,” he said. “And later, running to be on this board and make all these fun decisions.”
One parent immediately voiced his dissatisfaction.
“You just lost our kids out of your district,” he said, before marching out with his family in tow.