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Declining enrollment at cascade means fewer teachers

May 17, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

CASCADE - A continuing decrease in enrollment at Cascade Elementary School has led Washington County Public Schools to end partial Title I funding for three positions at the school and to require the reassignment of two other positions, school officials say.

The changes will be effective July 1, system spokeswoman Carol Mowen said.

School enrollment has dropped from 175 students in September 2002 to 150 in September 2003, JoEtta Palkovitz-Brown, executive director of elementary education, said Wednesday. The school's enrollment is projected to drop to 146 this September, she said.

Enrollment plays an important factor with the school system when determining the amount of school staffing and a school's Title I status, Palkovitz-Brown said.

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She tracks enrollments at all the county's schools and noticed that all class sizes at Cascade were below the usual goal of elementary schools of 21 students per teacher, she said.

Two positions will be reassigned to other schools, which will help elementary schools with classes larger than the target goal, she said. It has not yet been determined which positions and employees will be reassigned, she said.

Three positions have been partially funded by the Board of Education budget and partially by Title I funds: A student achievement specialist, a parent involvement assistant and a classroom teacher, said Roger Giles, director of funded and special programs. The teacher position is funded partially by a state grant, which ends this year, he said.

A student achievement specialist will continue at the school next year, but for only half the hours, he said. The parent-involvement position will be cut, he said.

Overall, the school is going to drop from 10 to eight teachers, Mowen said.

"Staff allocations and staffing assignments are still being determined and this is the time of the year for that," Mowen said.

Cascade is a Title I school, meaning all students there receive the benefit of supplemental Title I funding, regardless of their income or performance status. The federally funded Title I program provides money to help students in high-poverty schools meet high-quality standards of performance.

In Washington County, at least 40 percent of the student population must qualify for free and reduced-price meals each year in order for a school to qualify to receive Title I funds. Cascade's percentage has remained steady with about 44 percent receiving the aid, Giles said.

Of the 10 schools currently receiving Title I funds, Cascade has the lowest percentage, which is something he factors in when calculating how much money each school receives, he said.

Out of about $2.5 million in Title I funds distributed this year for salaries and wages, Cascade received $75,050, Giles said. The amounts are based on 2002-03 enrollment, he said.

But while the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals has remained steady, the enrollment at the school has been dropping and that results in a reduction of federal funds, he said.

With the lower enrollment and allocation, the decision has been made to stop the partial funding of the three positions with Title I money, Giles said.

Students eligible for free and reduced-price meals still will be able to receive them, Mowen said.

Karl Weissenbach, a Cascade resident who is director of the 226-member Cascade Committee, said the school enrollment level has been a problem since Fort Ritchie, the former U.S. Army base, closed in September 1998. He has been critical of the pace of redevelopment at the base's property.

"Until we get something moving at Fort Ritchie that includes housing, it is going to be very difficult," he said. "That is why our enrollment keeps going down."

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