*This story originally appeared in The Budget’s Feb. 28, 2018, Local Edition
By Stacey Carmany
During their February 20 regular meeting, members of the East Holmes Board of Education voted unanimously in favor of a plan to close Charm Elementary and reorganize the remaining Valley Schools by grade level beginning next school year.
Under the plan, Charm Elementary will be closed down following the end of the current school year, a move that will save the district more than $10,000 annually in operating costs based on a three- year average. Charm currently has an enrollment of 37 students and houses one kindergarten and one first-grade classroom.
Both classrooms and their teachers, along with Title teacher Marlene Miller, will move to Flat Ridge Elementary, which will house all Valley School students in grade K-4 beginning next school year.
The plan was first announced during the October 2017 Board of Education meeting. The district has since been collecting and reviewing written feedback from parents and the community.
Superintendent Erik Beun noted that while there was some concern about the future of the building, which was originally constructed in 1938, as well as the future of events such as the Charm Days celebration, the majority of the individuals who provided feedback were understanding about why the changes were needed. “I felt generally the feedback was that people understood the rationale for why we’ re reorganizing the schools in that way,” he shared.
In addition to providing cost savings for East Holmes, the move will allow shared staff to be utilized in a more efficient manner, according to Valley Schools Principal Casey Travis. “We will have everybody together, K-4, at one building which will be advantageous for our Title teachers, special ed teacher, cafeteria staff, principal,” he explained. “For example, our cafeteria currently drops food off at Wise and then goes to Flat Ridge to serve, and then they go to Charm to serve after. She won’t have to transport food to three places. It’ll just be two places.”
Travis shared that one of the biggest advantages of the reconfiguration, in his opinion, will be that it will create more opportunities for collaboration among teachers. “Staff collaboration is a big one for me,” he said. “Teachers at K-1 will be able to talk to second and third-grade teachers, and they’ll work a little more closely together than they do now.”
A separate decision to place the school and its 1.3 acres of property for sale at public auction was originally expected to be made during the summer or fall. However, that timeline may be extended to allow for additional discussion, according to Beun. “We’re going to take our time on the sale,” he said. “We still want to continue to talk about what’s the best way to go about that before we make that decision.”