Doing The Shuffle In Sheffield

While the decision to close Sheffield Elementary School might have seemed to come out of nowhere, it really didn’t.

Warren County School District Acting Superintendent Amy Stewart said that the administration “looked at prior work” and the closure “was on a list of things that we had explored in the past. When we looked at it the first time, that’s when we decided to do the shuffle.”

The “shuffle” refers to a change made a couple of years ago to house K-2 at Allegheny Valley Elementary School with grades 3-5 at Sheffield.

Currently, there are 96 students at Allegheny Valley and 131 in Sheffield.

Part of the process of closing a school is a closure hearing. Last June, a closure hearing was held that covered the elementary schools that feed Sheffield and Eisenhower as well as the South Street Early Learning Center. The language presented at that hearing was AVES and Sheffield Elementary would not be closed until the K-12 project at the high school was completed. After the solicitor’s review, Stewart said the information presented to the board on Monday, available on the school district website, was required to provide updated information regarding why the closure could occur early.

While the staffing savings will be minimal due to the reorganization that has already occurred, half of an administrative and teaching position, in addition to one aide, one custodian and one secretary will be cut.

The nature and selection of those cuts is different based on the bargaining unit.

Stewart said administrative cuts are largely made by seniority, as are the support personnel moves. For the teachers, the process is more complicated but is spelled out in the contract.

According to the presentation, several issues must still be addressed before closure.

One is the location of the Learning Enrichment Center, which could potentially be moved to AVES as well, saving on the lease with the state. “It was an idea that we put out,” Stewart said. “There’s nothing to execute at this point (because the board has) not made that decision.” She said the idea will be examined again closer to the passage of the final budget.

Head Start also has a lease to use space at AVES and that will have to be addressed before the beginning of the next academic year. Stewart said she met with Head Start officials on Friday. “They are pretty flexible where their program is located,” she said. “(We) talked about where we do have space. We will continue to work with them.”

She said the district will look for space in another building to house the program, adding that Head Start would be vacating AVES after next year when the building was originally scheduled to be closed anyway and will be looking at a solution “a little sooner.”

The district will also save on utilities by only managing one elementary school in the eastern attendance area. On electric alone, the district has spent $10,142.55 at Sheffield in the last year.

At May’s board meeting, Mike Kiehl, district transportation manager, said two buses that previously did not go to AVES will have their routes adjusted while another will see a reduction in miles by not traveling to Sheffield Elementary. He estimated the merger could cost the district an additional $5,000 from a transportation perspective. “He feels pretty solid about that (number),” Stewart said. “Most of the routes are the same.”

Projected savings from the closure are estimated at $200,000, but Stewart said that number is a conservative estimate. Depending on how fast the district moves in vacating the facility, “(the savings) will probably be a little bit more than that,” she said.