Students advancing into the fifth grade this fall will be staying at Gonzales Elementary School rather than moving on to North Avenue Intermediate School.
That decision was made in a 6-1 vote of the Gonzales ISD Board of Trustees at a special meeting Monday evening. The reconfiguration of the grades was proposed by Superintendent John Schumacher and was a compromise from proposals he offered two weeks earlier.
As a result of the reconfiguration, North Avenue will become a sixth grade only campus.
“I think for the social and emotional health of our students this will be the best move for our fifth grades,” Schumacher said.
Two weeks ago he offered a pair of proposals that would have vacated North Avenue, sending fifth graders to Gonzales Elementary and sixth graders to Gonzales Junior High. The board, absent a member, split the vote 3-3.
“This new plan is better than the old one,” said board President Glenn Menking. “We benefit from the financial piece as well as the academic piece.”
The lone vote against the move came from Trustee Sue Gottwald, who said the COVID-19 pandemic made this a bad time to do it.
“I’m a very strong supporter of realigning the district … I think we need to do it in ’21-’22,” she said.
Staff members presented information showing that the district’s report card with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) would have been better had the change been made last year and the fifth graders scores counting toward the elementary school. Under the three domains the district is graded for, the elementary school would have gone from a “D” to a “C” for student performance, from a “D” to a “B” in academic growth, and the school as a whole would have gone from a “D” to “C,” missing a “B” by one point.
“It’s like having a varsity football team playing without its seniors,” Schumacher said.
Principal Nicole Nerada said there would be no problem accommodating the fifth grade in the building. There would have to be some moving of classrooms, restructuring of lunch and physical education schedules and the creation of a second science lab, but it was all doable.
Schumacher said even with the increased enrollment at the school there will still be room for 177 more students before it reaches capacity.
In a separate agenda item, Chief Financial Officer Amanda Smith proposed a stipend for teachers that must move classrooms this summer. The board approved up to $6,000 total. Smith said the money is available because the district did not have to pay any substitute teachers during the coronavirus shutdown.
After the meeting she explained that teachers who box up their classroom but have staff move it will get $150. Sixth grade teachers at North Avenue who pack and move their classroom within the building would get $250, and fifth grade teachers who pack and move to Gonzales Elementary will get $300.
Speaking after the meeting, Schumacher said it is unclear yet if students will even be back on campus this fall. He said the district is awaiting direction from the state and TEA before a decision is made. That word is due by mid-July.
“I’ve assigned a task force to reach out to parents,” he said, explaining he wants as much information as possible so the best decisions can be made.