Howland superintendent says reorganization will ‘homogenize’ district
By Ed Runyan
Several officials from Howland local schools unveiled a reorganization plan Wednesday that Superintendent Kevin Spicher says is intended to “homogenize” – equalize – the district’s four elementary schools.
“We’ve always had a perception that there were two sides of town,” said Spicher, who graduated from Howland in 1986. He said everyone in the school district needs to “feel good about being educated in Howland, no matter what side of town you’re in.” In Howland’s case, it’s a north-south division.
Currently, students in the northern part of the township attend Howland Glen for kindergarten to grade 2 and H.C. Mines for grades 3 to 5. Students in the southern part of the township attend Howland Springs for kindergarten to grade 2 and North Road Elementary for grades 3 to 5.
The plan being proposed calls for students in grade 1 to attend Howland Springs, grade 2 at Howland Glen, grades 3 and 4 at H.C. Mines and grade 5 at North Road. Kindergarten would be split between Howland Glen and Howland Springs because there isn’t enough room for all to be together, Spicher said. Programs such as cognitive disabilities would remain at their present site.
Twelve-year board member Scott Lehman said he “totally agrees” with the reorganization.
“I have felt for many years we would be better if we could have our kids go through their whole school career together,” he said.
Another reason to combine students of the same grade level into one building is to improve administrative efficiency because they all would have the same principal, Spicher said.
The plan would not affect the middle school or high school, would involve only modest changes to the elementary buildings and is intended to become effective with next school year, Spicher said.
Spicher said the change will not cause students to have longer bus rides than now or increase transportation costs.
Kindergarteners next year will attend a full day, Spicher said. Howland is the only district in the county with half-day kindergarten now, he said.
The reorganization also will eliminate the need for any of the four trailer classrooms now in place at the North Road school and four trailer classrooms at H.C. Mines.
The project would be paid for with existing funds and would not involve an additional levy, Spicher said. He didn’t know how much the reorganization will cost, he said.
Implementation of the plan will begin as soon as early 2016 with the bulk of the move occurring next summer unless there is an “outcry from the community,” Spicher said.
The plan was written after receiving input from the community through surveys and conversations, but a community committee also is being formed to review the plan, Lehman said.
Andy Bednar, an architect with Baker, Bednar, Snyder and Associates, described the need for a ramp or elevator at North Road Elementary because it is two stories tall. He said H.C. Mines also needs more restrooms and a covered walkway. But neither of those will be completed in time for next school year, Spicher said.