PALO — The Palo Community Schools Board of Education has decided to keep the school open, but with fewer students.
According to Robert Kjolhede, the superintendent of Palo Community Schools and the Ionia County Intermediate School District, the school board decided on Monday to look into the option of staying open by operating as a kindergarten through fifth-grade school instead of kindergarten through sixth-grade school.
“Sixth grade is the start of middle school,” said Kjolhede, noting it will be easier for students to transition to new schools such as Carson City-Crystal Area Schools and Ionia County schools when other students in the district are doing the same thing. “It’s the best thing for the kids.”
According to Board of Education President Heather Smith, the board has not made an official vote with the exact terms of the decision, but she said this is the option the district is going to go with.
“I don’t think that (Palo) was ready to give up yet,” said Smith of the decision to stay open.
Smith said the circumstances of having to consider closing the school came after funding cuts, which affected the rural district.
“It’s important for people to know we are staying open,” she said. “We are hoping for the best.”
On March 4, a community forum met to talk about the future of the school. The school board was looking at options for the future of the school, including staff reductions from four teachers to two, annexation/consolidation of the school district with another school district, or no longer accepting students.
Kjolhede said Palo Community Schools, which is located in the northeast part of Ionia County, has just over 70 students and 10 staff members, including four teachers, one custodian, a secretary, para-professionals and bus and kitchen staff.
By eliminating one grade level, teachers will be teaching two levels instead of three. The pairings include K-1, 2-3 and 4-5.
“There will be a reduction of one teacher,” said Kjolhede, adding there is the possibility of that teacher being able to move into another a position so as not to be completely eliminated. “The board considered several options.”
The decision to stay open and operate as a K-5th grade school will last for the 2013-2014 school year. The school board may be in a similar situation a year from now depending on enrollment numbers.
“Palo Community Schools is a wonderful and safe place to learn,” Kjolhede said. “The staff and community is committed to making it work.”
This is not the first time Palo Community Schools has had to cut back on grade levels.
The school formerly operated as a K-12 and a K-8th grade school, but as resources became slim, the school board had to look at ways of cutting back.