District gears up for conversion

JOHNSTOWN – The Greater Johnstown School District is getting ready for the conversion to elementary school grade-level grouping in September.

District officials Thursday discussed ongoing plans to start the grade-level grouping this fall.

The district announced plans for a special Field Trip Day in June and a new shuttle bus system.

District officials also said there will be one elementary school Parent-Teacher Association.

The city’s three elementary school buildings will undergo a conversion with the 2014-15 school year from neighborhood-based schools to grade-level grouping. District officials say the new system will be a more efficient way of educating elementary school students.

Grades at the elementary schools will be placed this way: prekindergarten, kindergarten and first grade at Pleasant Avenue Elementary School; grades two and three at Glebe Street Elementary School; and grades four, five and six at Warren Street Elementary School.

The Board of Education’s Grade Level Grouping Committee on Thursday heard an update from Pleasant Avenue Elementary School Principal Jeff Vivenzio, Glebe Street Elementary School Principal Abbey North and Warren Street Elementary School Principal Scott Ziomek.

“We spent a great amount of time walking through each building,” North said.

Vivenzio stated, “We’re trying to focus on priority areas on what to maintain in this elementary structure.”

North said kindergarten registration will begin in April. By May, the district will gear up for registrations at Pleasant Avenue Elementary School.

“We hope it will be a big welcome for families,” she said.

In May, North said, the principals will discuss working together on supply lists and providing staff time for it.

North said the district scheduled a Field Trip Day for June 5. Children will be able to visit their new schools for the next school year.

In addition, family tours and open houses will be offered June 10 through 12. District residents will get to meet principals at that time. Class lists will be finalized by July.

A fun event, possibly in June, is being planned for each building as “one last hurrah” for this school year, North said.

Board member Ron Beck asked why the June 5 field trip will include bag lunches instead of the children eating in their new schools.

Vivenzio said field trips usually are “chaotic” and require bag lunches. He said staff is trying to get transportation details together as well as other information.

“There are still some families that don’t realize this is going to take place in September,” Ziomek said.

North said class lists will be made by taking into account “special needs.” That may include behavior and personalities, the principals said.

She said the district is setting aside Aug. 26 through 28 as “welcome back” nights in each building for “anyone who wants to come by and say hello.”

Vivenzio said members of the city’s PTAs decided to have one single elementary school PTA. There will also be “all encompassing” fundraising among the buildings, he said.

The district will move the sixth-grade class equipment first and work down by grade. Vivenzio said staff went into all the classrooms and did an inventory of all furniture.

District Director of Facilities and Operations Leo Loveless said the furniture will be cleaned and a precise schedule for moving eventually laid out.

“It’s going to be kind of touch and go on scheduling on that,” he said.

The district is hoping to conduct a transportation night for residents in which registration forms can be filled out. The district will use a traditional bus system as well as “shuttle bus” system between buildings.

North said that hopefully, the district will have an idea by April how many families will use the shuttle bus.

The grouping plan will require some renovations at the schools, such as retrofitting bathrooms. Officials estimated the cost at $40,000. The district also is considering a capital project involving all buildings. Some of the work would take into account grade-level grouping needs.