By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — BELLE RIVE — Pupils from the Belle Rive Attendance Center will be attending Opdyke Grade School next school year, following action by the OBR District 5 Board of Education.
“It was a very difficult decision. The Board didn’t take it lightly. It was very emotional,” said Debbie Blakey, who will become the superintendent/principal at the newly-organized Opdyke-Belle Rive district.
“The Board did gather information about the problems the state is having and meeting their funding obligations to schools. We were given information that for the 2013-2014 school year. It’s projected the state will provide Belle Rive with $76,000 less out of its Education Fund and approximately $60,000 was left out of the Transportation Fund. That’s $136,000 that had to be accounted for. We’ve been told we’re going to lose $136,000 total,” Blakey continued. “Based on the financial impact to the district, the Board made a decision that would provide us the ability to give the students the best possible education.”
To make up a portion of the loss in state funding, interim Opdkye co-superintendents John Ashby and Rod Stover have told school officials they will re-retire. Both men had served as superintendents in other school districts before accepting the interim assignments.
“We will not need a principal in both buildings. That’s a significant savings of around $145,000. Based on that, we have hit our target of the $136,000 lost,” Blakey said.
In other personnel moves, one full time teacher was released — resulting in 11 teachers at Opdyke. Four teacher aides (three full-time and one part-time) were released. All four aides were in their first year and still in their probationary period, according to Blakey. The district also released two cook helpers, and one custodian position was included in a reduction in force. Blakey said it hasn’t been determined yet, but that position may be reinstated based on the school’s needs.
The reorganization will double the enrollment at Opdyke, with approximately 95 students from Belle Rive being transferred. Opdyke currently has 87 students.
Blakey said three classrooms at Opdyke are not being utilized at this time, and with the portable classroom at Belle Rive being moved down the road, the district will have five additional classrooms.
“We believe we can accommodate all the students at Belle Rive, and we believe the transition will be as smoothly as possible for the staff, students and families,” Blakey said.
She added the move should improve transportation needs.
“Right now, we have to drive back and forth. It should make our transportation problems we have disappear somewhat. We have a unique situation in that we have two buildings three miles apart. We’re not anticipating any long delays in transportation,” Blakey said.
Earlier this month, a referendum to consolidate Opdyke-Belle Rive, Ina and Dodds school districts failed. Blakely said the finances for each district was discussed extensively in public meetings about the referendum, although the closure of the Belle Rive attendance center was not specifically stated.
“There were several meetings prior to the referendum. It was brought up the district was going to be shortchanged $36,000 and steps would have to be taken to absorb that loss. That was brought up at every single public meeting, and at every public meeting we discussed closing buildings because that’s how you save money,” she said. “While this action may be perceived as negative to some, there are some positives. Our entire staff will be together, and there will be educational opportunities for our students because in the past we were separated.”
Letters were distributed to parents in both districts on Wednesday, explaining the reasoning for the reorganization, Blakey said.
Meanwhile, school officials from Dodds and Ina grade schools are considering options following the referendum defeat. It has been rumored the two districts are considering a consolidation move.
“We’re exploring our options and continuing to pursue alternatives,” said Rodney Martin, Dodds School board president.