October 30, 2013Last month, community members got their first glimpse of Dr. Robert Boyd, the man who will be sifting through the Crawford County School Corp.'s closets to help trustees pinpoint a solid direction to take the corporation's seven student facilities. This month, Boyd was again in the spotlight as he presented the second update of his initial findings at the board of trustees' Oct. 22 meeting.
Since March, school officials have cited a downward enrollment trend and the present need for a separate space for students who attend Crawford County Junior-Senior High School as a reason to conduct the current feasibility study. School closures have been at the forefront of many parent and student minds since the announcement that the school corporation was considering looking into the workability of taking one of the five elementary schools and turning it into a junior high school.
Boyd, a 26-year veteran in the educational evaluation field who has conducted studies for more than 200 schools, was brought in to conduct the study of Crawford County's schools in order to see which, if any, elementary school would best meet the corporation's needs for a junior high facility and if the current enrollment trends would support the need for a separate facility in the future.
Again, trustees and community members were presented with a multi-page report on the findings in this initial stage, with the first three pages being highlights from Boyd's findings.
This portion of the study titled "An Executive Summary of Crawford County Community Schools Educational Program and School Facilities" detailed the corporation's current utilization of its facilities compared to the maximum functional capacity.
Boyd explained the "Prime Time" standards — a ratio between students and teachers in the classroom.
"When total numbers of students within a specific grade level at a school divide into sections of significantly less than 18 to one in kindergarten and grade one, less than 20 to one in grades two and three, and significantly below 25 to 30 students in grades four through six, the school corporation is not getting the most efficient use of faculty, staff or facilities," according to his report.
"It is a valid way to analyze the facilities," Boyd said.
While those standards no longer drive classroom population size and are not financially supported by the Indiana Department of Education, they are the benchmark for the delivery of quality elementary programs and are the per class standard Boyd utilizes in this study.
Numbers indicate that the total current elementary enrollment of 842 students is far lass than the total functional capacity of the five facilities at 1,493 and 826 students less than the actual capacity of 1,660 students. That puts the percentage of functional capacity usage at a mere 54.8 percent of what is deemed fully functional. Ideal utilization of an elementary school is between 90 and 95 percent.
Boyd's study states that "such excess space does not complement an effective and efficient delivery of educational programming." He also points out that the classroom averages, when compared to what would be the norm throughout the state of Indiana, are extremely low.
"You guys are somewhat spoiled," he said with a smile, alluding to the low student-to-teacher ratio the corporation now hosts.
Crawford County Junior High School fared better with its functionality scores.
According to findings, the total number of approved pupil stations (actual capacity) for the 14 general and special purpose classrooms at the building is 335 students per period. The junior high's percentages for space utilization of those 14 classrooms are 66.7 percent of actual capacity and 88.7 percent of functional capacity.
Crawford County Senior High School also fared very well with its utilization of space. The total number of approved pupil stations for the 31 general and special purpose classrooms there is 755 students per period.
According to the formula Boyd uses to determine functional utilization, the functional capacity is based upon 75 percent of actual capacity, and for the high school that would equal 566 students per period. The high school clocked in at 56.6 percent of actual capacity and 72.8 percent of functional capacity.
Functional utilization for the combined junior-senior high school is 77.7 percent, and numbers indicate the Crawford County Community School Corp.'s elementary and junior-senior high school educational programs meet the needs of students and are productive in the delivery of educational programming consistent with the culture of the community.
Another positive point Boyd made in his analysis of the structures was that each building has an excess of 20 years of "viable life left to be used as an effective and efficient facility for the delivery of modern educational programs."
"It's not like we're looking at something in bad shape so we have to do something about that; that's not the issue," he said. "The issue here is efficient; you've managed your finances extremely well to be able to keep five facilities that you have. I don't see many around that can do what you've done. … You've done some things right there."
But while he touted the corporation's fiscally sound approach, he wondered about the lastingness of running five elementary schools with the changing times. "Can you continue that? Well, declining enrollments — you take a hundred kids, you've taken half a million dollars," he said. "How long can you continue that? I don't know the answer to that."
Boyd also cited the attitude of the General Assembly at present as one that is not inclined to give more money per student, but less, a bold statement which Superintendent Dr. Mark Eastridge said was accurate.
Trustees present were able to address Boyd, and most were surprised at the numbers.
"There were a lot of things I didn't realize as far as space," Shawn Scott said. "We go into the school and it's just full of kids. … We think, 'Where are we going to put the next group?' "
"The educational programming expands to fit the space alloted to it," Boyd said in reference to the observations of trustees who have frequented the elementary schools. He also said that the report identified some spaces where programming was lacking and through more efficient usage of space and programming could grow, but he also pointed out, in the grand scheme of things, the school is scoring well on standardized tests and improving each year.
By law, any school district considering readjusting its educational facilities in a major way must conduct a study that includes community demographics, student demographics, current space and the appropriateness of current space, utilization of current space and economic impact of doing something different with educational space as well as analysis of population trends, demographics and fiscal condition of the corporation.
The next step in the study will be to look at operational cost efficiency of the corporation. Findings will be presented at the Nov. 19 meeting of the Crawford County School Corp. Board of Trustees at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School. The public session will begin at approximately 7:15 p.m.