Thirty-two sixth, seventh, and eight grade students will be bused from Booth Elementary School in Enfield to NCO Elementary in Norris City in the coming 2019-2020 school year, which begins August 14. This will leave 80 students from PreK through 5th grade at Booth.
“It was a difficult decision we’ve had to make,” said Matt Vollman, superintendent of NCOE District Unit #5. “The state of Illinois is in a crisis in education with teacher shortages, especially in the central and southern parts of the state. We are thinking about what’s best for our students.”
Vollman met with 42 parents, teachers, and school board members on Monday night at Booth Elementary in a meeting aimed at answering questions and explaining the teacher shortage facing the district.
Matt Vollman has been the superintendent of the district since 2015.
“When I took over as superintendent, there were 52 certified teachers in the district. Since 2015, in just four years, we have had to hire 28 teachers, he said. “This year, there were Jr. High math and science teacher shortages and no applicants for those positions.”
Vollman stressed that the decision to consolidate the Junior High students had nothing to do with finances, and that the district was financially sound. They felt consolidation was their only recourse. Vollman stated that Edwards County has had a special education teacher opening for two years and no one has applied. Gallatin County has two physical education openings they can’t fill. He also reassured the assembled group that total consolidation of the school district was not in the board’s plans at all.
Eight years ago, the two schools consolidated their sports programs, which the board feels has benefitted students from both schools. Vollman said he hopes that more Jr. High students will want to be involved in the sports programs, now that Booth’s junior high students will be with NCO’s. The sports programs will remain the same and the band and marching band programs will also remain the same. Vollman lauded the fact that a school district the size of NCOE could even offer band or art. Most small schools are not able to offer those electives.
Class size was a concern of parents, seeing that NCO’s junior high ranks would be increasing by 32. “The largest class will be 26 students,” Vollman stated. “The junior high students will be bused from Booth school, just like the high school students have been. But they will be separate. There will be two buses.”
The district plans to host an open house at NCO, allowing for Booth parents and junior high students to go on tours and find out where classrooms are and meet their teachers. Three teachers will be leaving Booth to teach the junior high at NCO. Those three will be Mrs. Naas, Mrs. Cushman, and Mrs. Edwards. Vollman said that the first partial week that school opens will be spent mostly helping Booth students acclimate to the NCO students. He stated there would be activities and games and a field trip.
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