BEA school board approves option to keep all students at Howard Elementary, hire for vacancy

In a 7-1 vote Thursday night, the Bald Eagle Area school board approved an option to keep all students at Howard Elementary School and to fill a vacant fourth-grade teaching position.

Board member Sue Butterworth was absent. Timothy Nilson was the lone no vote, stating the lack of consistency among teacher-to-student ratio at the primary level.

The vote came after talks of potentially moving two grades’ worth of students from Howard to Wingate Elementary School due to low enrollment, and not filling a vacant teacher position.

“The reason why this came about was because we get our registration numbers every spring, and any time you get a number that’s less than 10, it’s a huge concern because now we’re looking at a situation where we might have eight students (in a class),” Superintendent Jeff Miles told the CDT on Tuesday. “How do we justify having one teacher for eight kids? We want to make sure that there’s some comparability across the district the best we can.”

Last month, the Howard kindergarten class had nine students registered for the 2017-18 school year, and the third-grade class had eight students enrolled.

The kindergarten class is now up to 12 students for next school year, Principal Skip Pighetti said, who was in favor of an option that allowed the district to keep all students at Howard, but combine third to fifth grades — a total of 38 students — with two teachers and a reading specialist.

When asked his opinions about Thursday’s vote, Pighetti said, “It’s the best for our building, but not fiscally responsible for the district.”

According to documents from the district, the minimum cost to hire a teacher is about $55,754.

Pighetti said the opening will first be advertised internally. If there are no interests, then administration will look outside of the district.

“What this does now is give us time to look at the other options and see how we can best use them,” Pighetti said. “There is new learning. With technology, we can create independent learners in third, fourth and fifth (grades).”

The board also unanimously approved an option for administrators to conduct a feasibility study on all BEA school buildings, including the option of providing special education services in all facilities.