Opportunity to ‘reconfigure’

Maryville Director of Schools gets favorable response on grade-shuffling to ease overcrowding

Reconfiguring grades in the Maryville City School system will touch every school in the system, and school board members are embracing the change as more of an opportunity than a challenge.

On Monday, Nov. 29, parents, teachers and administrators got to hear a plan Director of Schools Stephanie Thompson pitched recently to school board members and that she and her staff will present to the Maryville City Council on Dec 2. The Maryville School Board could vote on the reconfiguration at their regular meeting on Dec. 13, Thompson said.

The idea, one of several options to deal with overcrowding at Maryville High School, would reconfigure grades, take pressure off the high school and bring it under capacity without the expense of building a new wing. “This gives us another 20 years,” principal Mike Casteel said.

The proposal under consideration would put ninth graders into the middle schools and move seventh grades into intermediate schools, Thompson explained.

“I think, like the city council, we have to be good stewards of the taxpayers dollars, and these are the best options we can do financially,” board chair Christi Sayles said.

Board member Denny Garner said the idea had many positives. “It’s a great opportunity for our system to meet the needs of the system,” he said. “I like moving the ninth grade out of the high school and putting fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh together.”

Board member Charles West said, “Every student will be touched in some way, but there will be positives to come out of this reconfiguration.”

Board members Bethany Pope said the board really had very view options, “especially at the high school.” Board member Doug Jenkins was optimistic about the change. “I find it exciting to consider a change,” he said. “I’m looking at it as an opportunity instead of an obstacle.”

Parents shared their thoughts during the public input session. Liz McCachren said she liked the idea of keeping students in the intermediate level four years because it gave them the chance to get to know the teachers better and having intermediate schools on either end of the city kept students closer to their homes. “The less time spent on the bus, the more time they have to learn,” she said.

Chris Legaux had his concerns with the new intermediate school configuration. “I think the fourth grade and the seventh grade -- those ages don’t work,” he said.

A linchpin in the plan is the opening of Coulter Grove Intermediate School, which is under construction on Sevierville Road. The plan would move fourth grade out of the elementary schools and into the two intermediate schools. Elementary schools would be kindergarten through third grade; intermediate school would be fourth through seventh grades; middle school would be eighth and ninth grades; and the high school would have 10th through 12th grades, Thompson said.

“All this is contingent on opening Coulter Grove Intermediate School in 2012 when we are scheduled to open it. That will mean additional operating expenses to open that school, so we’ll be working with city administration and city council on that,” she said recently.

Coulter Grove Intermediate School is being built with federal stimulus funds and major renovations have been made at Fort Craig School of Dynamic Learning and Sam Houston Elementary, John Sevier Elementary and Maryville Middle schools.

The system’s Master Planning process began in 2004. Lawler-Wood worked with the system and recommended building a new intermediate school and renovating John Sevier and Sam Houston elementary schools and adding a new wing to Maryville High School.

“In response to not having additional funding to expand Maryville High School, we are proposing a change in grade configuration to the board,” Thompson said recently.

For more information regarding the grade reconfiguration, contact the Maryville City School Central Office at mcs@ci.maryville.tn.us or call 865-982-7121.

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