School officials said they need a better idea of how much it will cost to re-establish the pre-K program at Walnut Ridge in 2021-22.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Vernon Township school board was planning to sell Walnut Ridge. On April 15, the board tabled a resolution on the matter and expected to hold a special meeting on Thursday, a day ahead of the deadline to inform the state about the district’s plans.
If the district tells the state it plans to use Walnut Ridge, the district can still backtrack and not use the school. However, if the district does not inform the state by Friday about its intention to use Walnut Ridge, it can’t use the school for the next entire academic year.
Business administrator Theresa Linskey said operating Walnut Ridge is included in the 2021-22 budget.
To function as a school, Linskey said, Walnut Ridge will have a secretary, an RPO position, and maintenance staff. The school would also need a nurse.
“Even though we are operating five schools and six nurses, one of them is the Covid nurse,” said Superintendent Karen D’Avino. “There are positions that would need to come back.”
D’Avino said energy use is down at Walnut Ridge during 2020-21 because only half the building is being used, and that the district will therefore see increased energy costs.
District officials are considering holding on to Walnut Ridge because they are expecting a larger-than-usual kindergarten class in 2021-22. The district had only 167 kindergartners this year.
“We noticed a trend this year that a lot of people held their children back from kindergarten,” D’Avino said. “I would have done the same thing if I was the parent of a five-year-old during the pandemic.”
As of April 15, Assistant Superintendent Charles McKay said, 130 kids have already signed up for kindergarten, a trend that is ahead of the previous year.
“It’s still early,” McKay said. “We will see how that plays out. We will not do anything not based on hard facts.”
With a waiting list for pre-K and an expected increase in kindergarten, D’Avino said she didn’t think it would be wise to have all three grade levels – pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade – at Cedar Mountain. She said she expects school in September to look like what it is now, with masks and social distancing.
“If we have the students (at Walnut Ridge), we can have them spaced,” McKay said.
“We noticed a trend this year that a lot of people held their children back from kindergarten. I would have done the same thing if I was the parent of a five-year-old during the pandemic.” Superintendent Karen D’Avino