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Central Board To Vote On School Changes

Central School District board members will vote next month on a realignment of the grade levels at area elementary and middle schools.

Central School District board members will vote next month on a realignment of the grade levels at area elementary and middle schools.

Ash Creek Intermediate School, which currently serves fifth and sixth grades, and all three Monmouth and Independence elementary schools would serve kindergarten through fifth grades.

Talmadge Middle School would handle grades 6 through 8. The changes would take effect in fall 2008.

Since December, officials have been exploring ways to use a portion of last year's voter-approved bond to alleviate overcrowding at district buildings.

The $13.5 million bond included $5 million earmarked for enrollment issues.

Board members opted last week to hold off on a final decision until their Monday, May 7 meeting, to consider additional input from residents.

School officials hosted several community forums in March to discuss several scenarios to deal with district growth. All schools, except for Talmadge, are operating at or above enrollment capacity.

Of particular concern is the number of new kindergartners coming to Central. The growth rate is projected at 7 percent annually until 2015, Superintendent Joseph Hunter has said.

Some reconfiguration ideas ranged from creating several K-8 schools, turning Ash Creek into a 4-6 school and leaving the district unchanged.

Moving sixth graders to the middle school, and turning Ash Creek and the other three elementary schools into K-5 programs was the most favorable option, Hunter said.

Under this scenario, all of the elementary schools would undergo some boundary changes, while Ash Creek would serve all households west of Gun Club Road and north of Monmouth Street in Independence, and north of Main Street in Monmouth to the district line.

The switch only alters the elementary school boundaries, not the overall district. Sixth graders would be relocated to a newly constructed classroom wing at Talmadge.

There isn't time to implement the plan by the 2007-08 school year, when district enrollment is expected to exceed 3,000 students.

Officials must purchase two or more portable classrooms for each of the elementary schools and the high school in order to open the sites next fall, Hunter said. The school board has approved $630,000 of the bond for modular units.

The balance will be used to expand Talmadge and realign the elementary schools, Hunter said.

Final comments and concerns regarding the realignment can be submitted to the superintendent via e-mail at jhunter@central.k12.or.us. Regular mail can be sent to Joseph Hunter, Superintendent, 1610 Monmouth Street, Independence OR 97351.

The May 7 board meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Ash Creek Intermediate School.

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