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District addresses parental concerns at school meetings

Concerned parents crowded into the gymnasium at East Elementary on Feb. 25. It was the second meeting designed to allow parents in the New Richmond School District to ask questions about the new K-5 schools.

"One of the issues when a school district gets this big is that it starts to lose connections with parents and families," Morrie Veilleux, superintendent, said.

"When there is a two-year transition between schools, you never get to really build relationships," Veilleux explained. "With a K-5 system, you get to know the staff and they get to know you."

Currently, West Elementary houses K-two, with a couple of third grade classes. East Elementary houses grades three to five. With the completion of the new elementary facility, all three buildings will house K-five.

One parent asked how much extra room would be available next year.

Veilleux answered that West and the new building are built for five sections, but will open with only four sections in the fall. East is built for three sections, but will open with only two sections.

"We have quite a bit of room to grow," Veilleux assured.

Steve Wojan, principal at East Elementary, said that they will also add an early childhood program to East.

Another parent asked about the fate of the temporary buildings at East.

"That's $85,000 a year that will be available for other things," Veilleux said, after explaining the buildings will be removed after summer school.

Parents expressed concerns about keeping the kindergartners separate from the fifth graders.

Frank Norton, principal at West Elementary, said that the grades will be separate for lunch and recesses - K-first together, second-third grades together, and fourth and fifth grades together.

A mom asked how they could help generate more parent involvement.

"With the K-five schools, I believe you'll get more active participation," Veilleux said.

In regards to the staggered start times and bus schedules, Veilleux said they currently have 29 bus routes.

"It costs $130 per bus per day to run, plus mileage."

By staggering the start times - where the Middle School and High Schools start before the grade schools - the number of buses would be reduced to 22. Although they will have to pay mileage twice on the remaining buses, Veilleux said the District would still be saving money.

"We need to understand that there are only so many dollars," Veilleux said. "We're trying to use them as efficiently as possible."

Handouts were available of the new school zones, a question-and-answer sheet about the starting times, and the Elementary School attendance area policy.