Three campuses in Athens Independent School District may be in for a future grade level overhaul.

AISD officials are considering a grade level reconfiguration plan for the Bel Air Elementary, South Athens Elementary and Athens Intermediate campuses. The plan, which is still in a preliminary stage, would open each campus to students from kindergarten through the 5th grade.

Bel Air is home to kindergarten and first grade, the South Athens campus is for second and third graders and Athens Intermediate teaches fourth and fifth graders.

In a Wednesday survey sent home with students from the three campuses, parents were asked for their thoughts on campus reconfiguration. The survey asked parents if they thought “A Kindergarten — Grade 5 configuration is academically better than the current configuration of K-1, 2-3 (and) 4-5 for elementary age students.” Parents were asked to return their answers by Friday, two days later.

Five advantages of the reconfiguration plan were listed in the release. According to the district, a kindergarten through 5th-grade campus:

• encourages continuity of teacher-student relationships;

• reduces the number of transitions between campuses;

• extends opportunities for parental involvement;

• extends opportunities to monitor learning needs of students; and

• provides greater leadership opportunities for fifth graders.

AISD Technology Coordinator Leslie Garakani said there is no concrete schedule for the reconfiguration. Before a schedule can be worked on, he said, the reconfiguration plan will need to be approved by the Board of Trustees.

“This is all so preliminary, I don’t know when they would start on it,” he said. “The reconfiguration is going to be geared in favor of the students. There’s been a lot of things that support why that (plan) would be a good move.”

Garakani said the parent responses to Wednesday’s survey would be taken into consideration. The surveys returned by Friday will be grouped into percentages of approval and disapproval.

“We’re really trying to get a feel for how the community feels about this,” he said. If most parents disapprove of reconfiguration, he said, “I think the plan is just to lay off of it for about a year or so.”

Jackie Cunningham, AISD primary education coordinator, said the proposed plan was discussed with campus principals in a Feb. 27 meeting. The idea of campus reconfiguration has been thrown around for several years, she said.

“We’ve been discussing this off and on for the last three superintendents,” Cunningham said. “It just never really got very far. Now we’ve got some new information that might make a difference.”

She added that numerous articles from education journals listing the pros and cons of multiple grade level school configurations have been factored into the plan.

Athens ISD Superintendent Dr. Fred Hayes said student demographics would be represented equally at each of the reconfigured campuses. Bus routes would be mapped out with the help of Transfinder, a computer software program.

“(Transfinder) looks at all different parts of a student’s background,” he said. “It helps determine things like student ethnicity and whether or not a student is economically disadvantaged.

“Our goal is to have equal representation across all campuses,” he added.

According to Garakani, the idea of campus reconfiguration was looked at seriously under former AISD Superintendent Curtis Rhodes. Possible plans were discussed in 2005 during a district facilities study.

Garakani said teachers at Bel Air Elementary, South Athens Elementary and Athens Intermediate have already responded to a survey similar to the one sent to parents Wednesday. He estimated that more than 70 percent of the teachers’ responses were favorable to the reconfiguration plan.

“Everybody in this building (the AISD Administration Building) is pretty much in favor of this plan,” Garakani said. “I feel it will pass with overwhelming support.”

He also supports the plan personally as a parent, he said.

“I have kids who go to Athens schools,” he said. “I have one at Bel Air and one at South.

“Under this plan, I would only have to drop them off at one school instead of two.”

Hayes said the plan would appear as an information item in the upcoming school board meeting.

The school board meeting is scheduled for March 22, the first Thursday after Spring Break.

Should AISD eventually proceed with the reconfiguration plan, Garakani said, the district would try to maintain the same number of employees at all three campuses.

“I don’t expect that it might eliminate any positions,” he said. “But we’re also trying not to get too top-heavy with job creation.”

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