GUSTINE - Enrollment challenges have prompted a planned restructuring at Our Lady of Miracles Catholic School for the next school year.
Administrators said a parent meeting was held Monday evening to outline plans for the coming year and emphasize the importance of families committing no later than Feb. 26 if they intend to enroll their students in the parochial school.
Principal Chandra Brace and Director Melissa Meneses told Mattos Newspapers Monday that if K-8 enrollment next year stays at the current 80 students the plans are to shift to more combination classes, eliminating single grade level classes altogether.
The proposed K-8 restructuring, based on current enrollment, calls for K/1, 2/3, 4/5 and 6-8 combination classes. A part-time teacher will assist the full time educator in the 6-8 class, under the plan.
The school now offers grade level classes at grades K, 1 and 2, a combination 3/4 class, a hybrid 5/6 course in which grade levels are separate in the morning and combined in the afternoon, and a 7/8 combination classes.
An enrollment boost would allow the current configuration to continue, the administrators said.
Meneses and Brace said that if the school should reach a K-8 enrollment of 100 the existing grade configuration could remain in place.
“We can’t move forward without making some changes for the next school year unless we get an influx of students,” said Meneses. “We would love to offer stand-alone (classes) but we can’t with (current) numbers. For the enrollment, this is the best option that we can provide.”
The blended learning setting of a combination classroom does not diminish the educational experience, Meneses and Brace stressed.
“There is no less of an academic achievement that happens in those classrooms,” Brace commented. “Even the traditional classroom is blended learning if it is being run effectively.”
Should enrollment fall below the current 80 students, the administrators reported, additional restructuring options are available to the school going forward.
They stressed the importance of parents of current OLM students - and families considering enrolling their students in the parochial school - to firmly make that commitment no later than Feb. 26.
That deadline, Brace said, will allow the school to “truly know the number that we are looking at.”
Brace said the pre-kindergarten program will not be affected, and OLM will continue to offer an extended day program.
The school will be looking at staff reductions, she said, and regardless of configuration going forward a new principal will be in place.
“Melissa and I have both decided not to return next school year, largely to save on the budget. It allows the superintendent to hire a single principal at the beginning step on the salary schedule,” Brace stated.
She emphasized that the current administrators will assist in the transition.
“We didn’t come here to throw in the towel and walk away. We came here to build, and we will do everything we can to help that new person,” Brace said.
The administrators reported the Monday night meeting was attended by a majority of OLM parents, who they said cherish the nurturing environment at the school.
“Our parents love our school,” she commented. “They are committed to whatever we need to do moving forward.”