By Sue Kiesewetter
LIBERTY TWP. - Sixth-graders at VanGorden and Independence elementary schools likely will move to Plains and Liberty junior schools next year to free up space at the elementary buildings.
The recommendation is being made to address overcrowding at VanGorden, Independence and Cherokee elementary schools. All except Cherokee will be beyond capacity by the start of the 2005-06 school year, said Mike Taylor, assistant superintendent for the Lakota Schools.
"Lakota is at a crisis with a lack of classroom space," Taylor said at Monday's school board meeting. "It is very doable to move those students. At least for two years we can make it a very workable solution."
This year Cherokee has 819 students, Independence 846 and VanGorden 939. Those numbers next year are expected to increase to 862, 913 and 1,020, respectively, putting Independence and VanGorden near or over their capacities of 950 and 970.
Under the two-year proposal, Taylor said the sixth-graders would operate on their own schedule and would not interact with the seventh- and eighth-grade students.
West Chester Township parent Michele Quimby said she liked the plan.
"It sounds like a good idea," said Quimby, who has a first-grader at VanGorden. "It's a smart way to ease overcrowding."
If voters approve a combination levy Nov. 2, $80.3 million would be available to build two elementaries and a freshman school to ease overcrowding. Those would open in 2007.
Another $12.8 million would be collected each year for day-to-day operations. Taxes would increase $236 annually on a $100,000 house.
Board members are expected to approve the first phase of the plan next month.
Should the levy go down, educators say they would also need the second phase of Taylor's plan. It calls for the freshman school to be converted to an elementary building, with ninth-graders moving to Lakota East and West high schools.
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