BAINBRIDGE -- The North Putnam Community School Corporation school board voted not to pursue the idea of attendance centers at both Bainbridge and Roachdale elementary schools at its regularly scheduled board meeting Thursday night.
The board voted 5-1 in line with a recommendation from the district's Attendance Center Committee, which includes assistant superintendent Kevin Emsweller, who gave a report on the committee's findings before a formal recommendation was given to the board.
Under the attendance center plan, all preschool to second grade students would attend Bainbridge and third to fifth graders would all attend school at Roachdale.
The plan came about earlier this year as a possible solution to relieve some of the overcrowding at the school in Bainbridge.
After researching the issue, surveying the school community and talking with other schools that have changed similar grade level configurations, the committee developed a list of both positive and negative consequences of implementing the plan.
"After we discussed the research available, we found it difficult that making such a change would be positive," Emsweller said. "It showed significant achievement loss during each transition year."
While the committee advised that the attendance center plan should not be implemented now, it still wants to look into the idea further, Emsweller said.
He then outlined some of the other considerations the board should think about, including the cost and length of student travel, particularly in a school district that covers a large area and the possible increase or decrease in parent involvement affected by the distance to school and the number of schools families attend.
Other things to look into were the number of students in each grade level that may affect classrooms or course offerings, whether the neighborhood or community close to the school would remain open, the number of school transitions for students and the opportunity for interaction between age groups.
"The school corporation needs to continue to adapt to change of circumstances such as student enrollment. An example from last year, shifting teaching personnel when appropriate has worked pretty well," he said. "We need to maintain this flexibility in these changing times."
School board president Andy Beck voted against the recommendation and said the attendance center plan should not fall off the board's radar.
"I think by not pursuing or trying to do something like this, we are hurting some of the education of our kids by keeping everyone spread apart," he said. "We are one corporation, not a southern part of the corporation and a northern part of the corporation.
"I know what some of the parents are saying, some students do get on the bus really early in the day, but I do think the transportation part of it can be worked out."
Positive consequences of the attendance center plan would create more efficient use of resources, provide more equity in programming, increase future opportunities to work together for students, more consistency in class size, help teachers teach same material at same time, Emsweller said.
"Our decision should not be made based on what's best for administrators, not be based on what's best for teachers, nor even should it be based on what's best for the parents," Emsweller said. "It should be based on what's best for students."
The community survey found that 36 percent out of the 305 people who took the survey were in favor of the plan, while 64 percent were opposed.
Board member Jackie Simpson, who also served on Attendance Center Committee, said a constant theme in the survey results was to group grades three, four and five together because they were the ones that took the ISTEP+ test.
However, she ultimately voted not to pursue the attendance center plan for the time being.
"Right now, that is not logistically possible with the buildings we have," she said.
In other business, the board heard a presentation from district bus driver Randy Neeley about the results of the Fill the Bus fundraiser.
Neeley said the bus weighed around 7,000 pounds after it was filled with donated cans of food.
The collected food was given to Bainbridge Christian Church, Roachdale Christian Church and Russellville Community Church during distributions on Thursday.
"The results were beyond my wildest dreams," Neeley said.