A proposal to close Spruce Primary School and redistrict the five remaining elementary schools will be discussed Thursday during a community forum beginning at 7 p.m. at Pine Intermediate School, 4267 Dover Center Road.

The recommendation to close Spruce was made by the Community Task Force, which the district uses to consider facility and capital improvement issues. The committee met throughout the past year.

“The district has been experiencing declining enrollment and has classroom space available that is currently not being utilized efficiently in several of the larger buildings,” said Superintendent Mike Zalar. “Closing our smallest elementary building and redistricting will help us to better use our space, reduce class sizes, better balance out grade levels, and provide more equitable educational services to students across the district."

With enrollment dropping from 8,000 to 4,000 students over the past 50 years, the district began looking at its options last year because it can’t keep the same number of schools open.

Closing Spruce would save the district about $400,000 annually in utility and staff costs because a building principal and secretary and custodial and maintenance support would not be needed, Zalar said.

Teachers would be reassigned to another school depending upon their certification, subject matter and grade-level expertise, he said.

But those savings would not be seen immediately because the district would need to buy additional buses, Zalar said.

"The most important thing closing an elementary school does for the district is it allows us to better utilize our resources and provide educational services to our students,” he said. “Some of the benefits would be a reduction in class size at the early primary levels and a more equitable ability to provide targeted support services to the students that need them the most."

School board Vice President Kim Rahm said the possible closing of Spruce is a big deal for the district.

“Students have to go to a new school,” she said. “There’s changes in how to get to school. It affects the whole community with the change. We’re hoping to get a big turnout at the forum and see what people have to say.”

Besides closing Spruce, the task force recommended reconfiguring the district for the upcoming school year.

Birch and Forest primary schools would house kindergarten through second grade. Pine and Maple intermediate schools would have grades three through five. Chestnut Intermediate School would become a primary school for pre-kindergarten through second grade.

School officials are considering the proposal. The next regular school board meeting is Jan. 22 at the administrative offices on Butternut Ridge Road. Administration officials have said they would like to have a decision in time to start making changes for next school year.

Contact this reporter at assoceditor@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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