MEDORA

Medora preschoolers and kindergartners will remain in separate classrooms next school year.

That’s a change from what Superintendent Roger Bane and Principal Austin Absher announced at the end of March.

At the time, they said Medora Elementary School would convert to four multiage classrooms for the 2017-18 school year. In a multiage classroom, students of different ages and abilities learn together in one classroom.

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Next school year, first- and second-graders will remain in a multiage classroom with a teacher and a full-time aide. That was put in place this school year as part of a plan created because of a decline in enrollment and a general fund budget deficit.

The two new multiage classrooms will be third and fourth grades and fifth and sixth grades. Each of those two classes will have a teacher and a full-time aide.

Current enrollments are 11 in preschool, six in kindergarten, five in first grade, 18 in second grade, 15 in third grade, 14 in fourth grade, 18 in fifth grade and 16 in sixth grade.

So far, around 10 preschoolers are enrolled for 2017-18.

When he initially shared the news about multiage classrooms, Bane said the elementary would drop from seven to four teachers. That now has changed to five teachers.

Bane said the preschool teacher will spend the second half of the school day as a resource teacher, which would be covered by Title I funds. There also will be an aide to help with the preschool and kindergarten classrooms.

“I took a look at the budget, and I felt that with the money that we might potentially get from On My Way Pre-K, we could keep that separated,” Bane said of the preschool and kindergarten classrooms.

On My Way Pre-K offers state-funded vouchers to qualifying low-income families to send their 4-year-olds to a preschool of their choice. The program has been in Jackson County since 2015, and Medora’s preschool is one of 13 state-certified Level 3 Paths to QUALITY providers in the county.

Switching to multiage elementary classes is one of the proposed changes for 2017-18 that the board of trustees recently approved to create some budget savings.

The corporation’s general fund budget relies heavily on enrollment, or average daily membership. Annual ADM counts are in September and February.

Medora currently receives $6,358.15 per student in tuition support, and that money covers a six-month period.

Based on an ADM of 192 in September and other revenue for the general fund, Bane estimates a deficit of $209,319 for 2017. The ADM has steadily decreased since September 2014 when 239½ students were enrolled at Medora. At that time, kindergarten students were counted as half.

By law, a school corporation is not allowed to be in a deficit financing position, Bane said.

The other proposed changes were eliminating an aide position and adjusting the employee insurance contribution. Those changes along with converting to multiage classrooms had an estimated total savings of around $172,000.

“That is still off a little bit (from the deficit total), but I’m hopeful this legislative session, the state will come up with a few more dollars to cover the $37,000 we’re short,” Bane said in March during the parent/community meeting at the school that drew more than 60 people.

The corporation also has seen a decrease in its general fund cash balance. It was $431,776.04 at the end of 2015, and Bane estimates that to be around $175,000 at the end of 2018.

“If we get more students, as people retire and those type of things, hopefully, that estimated cash balance in ‘18 will go up,” he said. “We just have to wait and see. We’re at the mercy of the state right now as far as new money that we’re going to actually get.”

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.