LEMONT – The Lemont-Bromberek Combined School District 113A Board of Education unanimously endorsed moving fifth grade classes back to River Valley School during its Nov. 20 meeting.
The district administration will look further into the logistics of making the move next school year and will present its findings to the board.
According to a timetable made by district administration, the board could officially vote in January on whether to make the move.
Board members Al Malley and Dave Molitor both attended a committee meeting in early November with district administration about whether to keep the fifth grade class at Old Quarry Middle School or move them to River Valley.
Both came to the conclusion that having fifth grade classes at River Valley was the best decision.
Molitor said that the fifth graders were relocated to Old Quarry after Central School closed at the end of the 2010-11 school year because it was the most financially feasible option, given the district’s budget and staffing cutbacks.
“The move of fifth grade (to Old Quarry) was never meant to be a permanent thing,” he said.
A presentation during the Nov. 20 meeting outlined advantages and disadvantages of moving the fifth grade versus keeping it at Old Quarry.
If the fifth grade stayed at Old Quarry, the district would need to come up with a fifth through eighth grade curriculum. However, most existing curricula plans are formatted for kindergarten through fifth grade and sixth through eighth grade.
The fifth graders have more extracurricular opportunities at Old Quarry. The district said it would explore expanding extracurriculars for the fifth graders if they move to River Valley.
Either school would be at full capacity with the fifth grade there. But, with half of the district’s students at Old Quarry, moving to River Valley would balance out the school populations better, administrators said.
The district estimated that having the fifth grade at River Valley would add 25 to 30 cars to its traffic flow.
If relocated to River Valley, the nine fifth grade classes would move into nine classrooms in the back wing. These rooms are currently occupied by resource teachers, who would move into pod classrooms made from portable walls.
Malley said he is concerned about what the district will do if enrollment increases.
“No matter what we do, one building is full,” he said. “So, we have to have some kind of backup plan.”
According to the administration’s presentation, River Valley could add one or two rooms without making structural changes and another room could be added with structural changes.
If fifth graders stay at Old Quarry, the school could open up a computer lab to be used as a classroom by adding mobile technology. Another lab could be used for special education or English Language Learners. As many as four teachers could work from carts.
Central School could also be reopened as an attendance center. The district is currently exploring leasing out the vacant building, so it is uncertain whether it would be available.
Moving the fifth grade to River Valley would likely require hiring a part-time physical education teacher and music teacher, as well as either a part-time or fulltime administrator.
Malley said these new hires would recover positions the district had to eliminate during its budget cuts a couple of years ago.
“It’s not about spending more money,” he said. “These were things that were there that always should have been.”