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Morrison Delays Decision On First Ward Elementary

Two CMS creative art magnets could combine next year and become a school open to students year-round.  The board was expected to launch that effort Tuesday night.  But Superintendent Heath Morrison decided the district needed more time to study it and get input from parents. 

Two years ago the CMS board decided to close University Park elementary and combine it with First Ward elementary to save money.  But that would only work if students were on a multi-track calendar.  That means students would rotate through classes and vacation at different times of the year.  Otherwise, there wouldn't be enough space for the school to accommodate all those kids at once. 

"I just think it's crazy if we don't have to do it," says Jane Webster who has a third grader at First Ward. 

She doesn't mind combining the two schools, but having kids at the same school on different calendars worries her. 

"When they decided to do it, the demographics were different.  There were more students at each school.   And I think it was just that crazy year when we were trying to just cut costs," says Webster. 

She points out one reason the demographics are different is because many parents pulled their kids out of these magnets when they heard they would merge and go to a year-round calendar. 

The district has held off on combining the schools and Tuesday night Morrison said the district still isn't ready to make the final call. 

"I just felt that the complexity of the multi-track calendar being proposed at First Ward...there had not been sufficient time for our community to really understand it, thereby giving us guidance and feedback in terms of did we get the calendar right," says Morrison. 

Morrison has asked his staff to make sure the move would actually save the district money.  He says the proposal is complicated and notes it would require additional expenses such as adding staff and buses.  He'd like financial questions answered before the next board meeting on October 30.