McGuffey reconfigures elementary schools

August 6, 2014
Joe Walker Elementary School in South Franklin Township - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

In order to eliminate back-to-back transitions for Joe Walker students, McGuffey School District has reconfigured its elementary schools.

Starting this fall, both Joe Walker and Claysville elementary schools will offer fifth grade. Prior to the reconfiguration, fourth-grade students at Joe Walker had to transition to Claysville for fifth grade, then transition the following year to the middle school for sixth grade.

McGuffey Superintendent Erica Kolat said “research shows that fewer transitions, even at the elementary level, lead to higher student achievement potential.

“Studies show that the year following the transition, students aren’t at their potential,” she said. “So with two transitions in two years, our Joe Walker elementary school students weren’t regaining their potential until the seventh or eighth grade.”

Kolat said classroom space at Joe Walker prevented the district from reconfigurating sooner.

“Enrollment decreased and we were able to add two fifth-grade classrooms to Joe Walker,” she said. “So there are two at Joe Walker and four fifth-grade classrooms at Claysville.”

The district received permission to proceed with the reconfiguration Monday from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Kolat said. Parents have been notified.

“It had been like that at least 10 years,” Kolat said of the back-to-back transition. “There weren’t complaints from parents. They just accepted it.”

In April, Kolat said the district surveyed the elementary school parents and teachers about the reconfiguration.

“Ninety-two percent responded back that they were in favor of it,” she said.

Scott Burchill, the business administrator for the district, said two teachers were moved from Claysville to Joe Walker to accommodate the change. He said the reconfiguration also cuts back on bus usage.

“They were spending 45 minutes total on a bus each day,” Burchill said about the students coming from Joe Walker to Claysville. “We were hubbing them at the high school then sending them over to Claysville.”

He said the reconfiguration did not provide a cost saving or cost detriment to the district.

“The real benefit is for the students,” he said.

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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