Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Woodside Elementary is on schedule

District touts 'neighborhood schools'

Express Staff Writer

With the new Woodside Elementary School slated to open for the 2006-2007 academic year, the Blaine County School District is preparing for a districtwide transition to neighborhood schools. New Woodside Elementary School Principal Gary St. George is heading the transition process.

"The good news is that the physical construction of the building is awesome, it's right on schedule," St. George said.

Construction began in March 2005 to build Woodside Elementary School, located off Berrycreek Drive on the east side of the Woodside neighborhood, in Hailey. The 20-acre site accommodates a 54,000-square-foot school to house approximately 450 students.

"My job now is to turn the building into a school," St. George said.

Appointed as the head of the new school, St. George departed Bellevue Elementary School in December after four and a half years as principal there to oversee the transition. St. George oversaw similar transitions during his previous 32-year tenure as a Seattle-area principal. To fill Bellevue's vacancy, the district appointed John Dominick, former Hemingway Elementary School principal, as the interim principal.

With the opening of the new school, St. George is working to create "soft boundaries" that establish neighborhood schools for district elementary schools. The boundaries assign elementary-age children to the school nearest their home. Families will receive their neighborhood school assignment later this year.

"The goal is to make neighborhood schools. We had to first set up neighborhoods," St. George said.

Presently, all elementary students residing north of East Fork Road attend Hemingway Elementary in Ketchum. South valley students attend Bellevue and Hailey Elementary schools, according to their grade level. Bellevue Elementary serves kindergarten to second-grade students, with dual-immersion classes for third and fourth grades. Hailey accepts kindergarten to fifth-grade students.

"Woodside created the opportunity to create neighborhood schools," St. George said.

With the shift to neighborhood schools, all elementary schools will offer kindergarten to fifth-grade classes. Elementary-age children will to go to the school nearest their homes, unless other arrangements are made.

Cathy Zaccardi, Blaine County School District clerk of the school board, said preliminary descriptions for the elementary school neighborhoods are:

· Students residing north of Ohio Gulch Road attend Hemingway Elementary in Ketchum.

· Students residing south of Ohio Gulch Road to Fox Acres Road and west of Highway 75 from the Starweather subdivision to Della View area attend Hailey Elementary in Hailey.

· Students residing south of Fox Acres Road to the Woodside industrial area would attend Woodside Elementary School.

· Students residing in Bellevue, the Bellevue Triangle and in the lower Broadford Road area west of Highway 75 would attend Bellevue Elementary in Bellevue.

Individual south valley schools will each offer two grade levels for the dual-immersion program. The distribution of the dual-immersion grade levels among Hailey, Bellevue and Woodside schools has yet to be determined.

Shifts in student populations have prompted reassignments of teachers. Last fall, the district surveyed all teachers to gather employees' preferred teaching locations. An administrative council matched teachers with the district's needs and student populations, and will announce the school assignments in March. The redistribution of staff comes with the addition of approximately eight new employees.

"In theory, we aren't adding any additional kids," St. George said. "We are trying to not add any more classroom teachers."

School-specific positions like a principal, a secretary and janitors are needed. Further details on staffing and schools will be available later this spring.

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