Moncure Elementary School

Moncure Elementary School

The Stafford School Board will consider moving several special education programs out of Moncure Elementary School in light of possible capacity issues.

In February, the board approved a plan aimed at centralizing where low-incidence special education programs—programs for children with disabilities that occur in low numbers, such as blindness, physical impairments, significant developmental delay and complex health problems—are located in the county.

The approved plan placed four low-incidence classrooms—two for EBS, or emotional behavior support, and two for Learning Support 1—at Moncure Elementary starting next school year.

After the board’s vote on new elementary school attendance zones last month, a community member discovered that capacity projections for Moncure under the new attendance zones did not take the special education program placement into account.

Michelle Goshorn, who was a member of the school’s Capital Improvement Plan Advisory Committee, wrote an open letter to School Board members detailing her concerns.

“Based on [my] calculations, it’s clear that the consultant didn’t consider pull out program changes to the capacity model,” Goshorn wrote in the March 31 email. “Moncure in the selected [redistricting plan] goes to 93.09 percent [capacity next year].

Under the approved redistricting plan, Moncure Elementary will have the highest minority population and the highest percent of students with limited English proficiency in the county—about 80 and 24 percent, respectively. It will become a Title 1, Tier 2, classroom-reduction school, classifications that result in additional funding from the state but also lower overall capacity by 26 students.

School Board Vice Chairwoman Sarah Chase sent Goshorn’s letter to Superintendent Scott Kizner, whose response seemed to validate her numbers. Kizner recommended modifying the low-incidence placement plan to create more classroom and resource space at Moncure.

“Our suggestion would be to leave the Garrisonville EBS program at its current location and also leave the [learning support] program at Brent Elementary,” Kizner wrote in an April 1 email. “Both schools have space and this would keep the programs at their current sites.”

At the beginning of Tuesday’s School Board meeting, Griffis–Widewater District representative Jamie Decatur—who voted against the approved redistricting plan, along with Aquia representative Irene Egan and Hartwood representative Holly Hazard—moved to amend the agenda to add a discussion of the Moncure capacity issues.

Her motion was seconded by Hazard and supported by Egan, but failed after Chase, Board chairwoman and Rock Hill representative Patricia Healy, George Washington representative Dewayne McOsker and Garrisonville representative Pamela Yeung voted against it.

In board comments following the vote, Decatur said she has “grave concerns” about Moncure Elementary and about asking the special education programs to move because of new information.

“In the past, low-incidence programs were placed in schools based on where they fit. This was our opportunity to give them preference to place them first, based on staff recommendations, and we did that,” she said. “I don’t find it appropriate that we’re going to ask to move them now because [our numbers] were off.”

Kizner gave his recommendations for moving the programs during the superintendent’s comments portion of the meeting.

“Honestly, we could stay with [the programs at Moncure], but that’s not the right thing to do,” he said. “We’re realizing that the [February] decision needs to be amended. Garrisonville and Brent have the room and we think this would be a better option.”

Yeung asked whether the board should vote Tuesday on moving the programs, but other board members wanted to see the issue placed on the agenda for a future meeting.

“We either have an agenda item and it’s on and it’s staffed and it’s done the right way, or it’s not,” McOsker said.

Decatur said she sent emails to Healy, Chase and Kizner asking to add a discussion of Moncure’s capacity issues to the agenda prior to Tuesday’s meeting, but “no one got back to me.”

Healy reminded Decatur that it is the board’s policy to have two board members or a board member and the superintendent agree to place an item on the agenda.

She said the issue would be placed on the agenda for the next meeting, April 23.

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Adele Uphaus–Conner: 540/735-1973 auphaus@freelancestar.com @flsadele

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