HED:Lee board to address merger

By Monique Harrison

Daily Journal

A proposal that would merge Plantersville School and Verona School was not on the agenda for Tuesday's regularly scheduled Lee County School Board meeting as of Friday.

Agenda items are typically submitted by noon on Friday so they will appear on the printed agenda. However, district officials could request that an item be placed on the agenda even after it has been printed.

Superintendent Lynn Lindsey said an announcement about the proposal would be made following the 4 p.m. meeting at Mooreville Elementary School.

"We'll be announcing something," Lindsey said.

"A real decision hasn't been made," added Board President Ronnie Robison.

Lindsey would not say whether he expected the item to be placed on the agenda Monday or early Tuesday.

Some board members have voiced opposition to the plan, and newly elected board member Sherry Mask said she might abstain on the vote because she does not feel she knows enough of the proposal's background.

The proposal calls for the merging of the two K-8 schools, with Verona serving students in grades K-5 and Plantersville serving students in grades six through eight.

If the proposal is approved, it could go into effect as early as next fall.

The measure is designed to avoid disproportionate per-student expenditures in the county's nine schools.

Enrollment at both Plantersville and Verona has steadily dropped for about a decade, while enrollment in northern Lee County's Saltillo and Guntown schools has steadily increased.

Some grades - particularly in Plantersville - are currently so small that some teachers have only 15 students per class.

Enrollment at both schools is particularly low in the upper grades.

Skewed ratios increase per-student expenditures at Plantersville and Verona, with the district spending significantly more money to educate a child there than at another Lee County School where teachers have larger classes.

The state Department of Education has the power to require a school system to redistrict if per-student expenditures become extremely unbalanced.

Superintendent Lynn Lindsey, a vocal supporter of the merger, said the proposal would also allow the district to offer more courses at the middle school level. He said classes like Spanish and band would likely be added, along with pre-algebra.

Some opponents are concerned about transporting students from one community to another.

Officials estimate 10 buses would be required to run routes between Verona and Plantersville.

The drive between the two schools is about four miles on County Road 814, a blacktop, two-lane road with two bridges and two railroad crossings. At times, the bridges have been closed because of flooding.

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