The Vernon Township school board unanimously voted on April 22 to move its pre-K program back to Walnut Ridge Primary School beginning with the 2021-22 school year.
The district needed to inform the state by last Friday that it intended to use Walnut Ridge as a school.
Assistant Superintendent Charles McKay said fitting pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade into Cedar Mountain school has worked so far, but that the district is facing a possible increase in kindergarten numbers that could cause space to tighten.
As of last Thursday, 126 were students registered for kindergarten in 2021-22. At the same time last year, only 92 students had registered for kindergarten. There are also nine general education students on the preschool waiting list.
At Cedar Mountain, therapy is being conducted in hallways, and three speech teachers are using one classroom. Also, half-day pickup and drop-off for preschool students has interfered with recess.
McKay said the pre-K teachers are looking forward to moving back, and that the district could introduce a fifth class.
If the district gets the kindergarten increase officials are expecting, Cedar Mountain will run out of classrooms, he said.
The district can transfer a secretary, a nurse, and four teachers to Walnut Ridge. They would have to hire a custodian and an RPO. McKay and Superintendent Karen D’Avino have principal certifications that can be used to run the building, as their offices are in Walnut Ridge.
The total cost to operate the building as a school comes out to an additional $110,000.
“This is a building that should be used,” McKay said. “We have an opportunity to do that at a minimal cost.”
School board member Adina Leuthner asked what would happen if the district sees a big drop in enrollment.
McKay said it’s a concern and a risk, but that the district has a choice of being proactive when it’s inexpensive, or waiting.
School member Kelly Mitchell said she thought it was a good move, since it would help with social distancing. If enrollment continues to drop, the district could always give selling Walnut Ridge another look.