Okaw Valley School District is in the process of exploring “attendance centers” in Bethany and Findlay instead of the traditional individual small-town grade school concept and the school board is gathering input from both communities.

The reason given for the exploration is purely educational according to Okaw Valley superintendent Marilyn Bayley.

“We have not put forth a specific proposal yet,” Bayley said. “The Board annually looks at our programs and services to determine if we can better provide for the students. We’re looking at this for the educational benefits. It would put all the (district’s) students in the same grade level together.”

Bayley knows there will be concerns of parents and that is the purpose for two community informational meetings. The first was held in Bethany on Tuesday night and the next will be in Findlay on Thursday, February 16 at 7 p.m.

“One concern at any point is busing the students,” Bayley said. “Busing younger children is always a concern to parents. We had people at the meeting (at Bethany) from both communities who are concerned about the impact on students. But, my sense is that people see the benefit of having the students together. The differences may be on how do we do it. Transportation is an issue.”

Educational issues are presently having more than one grade level together in the same class at each school, as well as class size between the same grade levels at the two schools.

At the present time, Findlay has a combined 3rd-4th grade class and has had since the students were in first grade. Bethany has a combined 4th-5th grade class that has been that way for two years.

“That’s not the best option for students,” Bayley said. “ In some cases (with attendance centers), three classrooms may become two. There could be some small changes in personnel, but not significant reduction, one or two positions.”

Bayley said that any savings in possible reduction of staff would be offset by increased cost in transportation, so the board is not looking at attendance centers as a financial benefit, merely as the educational benefit.

Bayley said the school district is not ready to make any decisions yet. They will hold the meeting in Findlay next week and then review the input from the communities and not probably discuss the issue at the next school board meeting. They may hold additional meetings after that.

If the decision is made to go to attendance centers and approved by the school board by the end of the school year, it could be implemented for next fall, according to Bayley.

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