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Grade structure unchanged at St. Paul

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Parents will have the option of sending students to Carroll County's middle school or keeping them at the school in Cana.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Just like parents and community members requested, St. Paul School’s grade structure of pre-kindergarten through seventh will remain the same, the Carroll County School Board members decided at their meeting Dec. 11.
At the same time, on a motion by member Joey Haynes, the school board affirmed that parents have the option to send their sixth- and seventh-graders to the Carroll County Middle School if they want.
When the countywide school upgrade program started years ago, the school board at that time made a commitment to discuss the grade structure in Carroll when construction wrapped up.
Education officials held two public hearings on the matter — one in the gym at St. Paul — before making their decision at the December meeting.
Haynes noted at the meeting that he felt impressed with the participation of parents and community members in providing input about what to do about the sixth and seventh grades at St. Paul.
Officials can learn a lot by listening to folks with children in the school system, he added. He appreciates all the people that came out and spoke at community meetings.
Their voices were heard, he said.
Then, Haynes made a motion to maintain the current grade structure.
He promised that the school board would make every attempt to provide the same course offerings at St. Paul as at the middle school. Haynes said that the schools probably would use distance learning technology and share personnel to make that happen.
The motion included permission for parents in the St. Paul service area to send their children to the middle school if they find that situation better for them.
“That way, we ensure equality but we also build in choice, but we’re very fortunate we can offer that opportunity for our children, given the geographical situation that exists in our county,” Haynes said.
Initially, the motion applied to just the seventh grade, but Chairman Brian Spencer indicated his support for expanding the motion to include sixth grade.
“Why not offer that same option to a sixth grader parent,” the chairman asked. “If they both work and if there’s an emergency, they’re more accessible to the intermediate school.”
Spencer noted that he and his wife changed their schedules when one of their children went to Fancy Gap.
A student might also have a brother or sister in sixth or seventh grade at the middle school and might want to attend there for that reason, School Board Member Reggie Gardner added.
Saying he’s in favor of that flexibility, Haynes added that to his motion.
Educators have a plan to provide instruction to students at both the middle school and St. Paul equally, Superintendent Strader Blankenship said. “You could have a teacher at St. Paul providing a class at Carroll County middle school and vice versa.”
Will the schools share the teachers on a pro-rated basis, School Board Member Olen Gallimore asked.
There’s a teacher now that has three classes at Woodlawn and one at St. Paul, Blankenship answered. That teacher gets paid a little more for the extra class he leads, and because he also has to do his planning after the school day.
Will children at both schools that share a teacher for a class get face time, Spencer wanted to know.
Administrators will ask that teachers spend time at both schools in person, Blankenship said.
This is a new situation, and Haynes suspects it will take some tweaking after it is implemented.
The technology for distance learning has made great improvements over time, the superintendent said.
Gardner encouraged parents from St. Paul to tour the updated Carroll County Middle School, whatever their decision about where their students should attend.
After a second from School Board Member Sandy Hendrick, the board voted unanimously to approve Haynes’ motion.