Storey schools head denies plan to close Hillside

Storey County School District Superintendent Rob Slaby said the district does not intend to close Hillside Elementary School in Lockwood.

"No, we've never said that," Slaby said.

He did say that the district did not plan to replace one teacher of fifth-and-sixth-grade students who had resigned, and that would necessitate combining more classes.

For the 2007-08 school year, there will be one teacher for kindergarten and first grade; one for second and third grades; and one for fourth, fifth and sixth grades.

"We also have one additional teacher that will help with students who are below grade level," he said.

Slaby said the ratio of students to teachers would be 15 to 1, with 45 students enrolled in Hillside as of Wednesday.

He said parents have called with their concerns, but he didn't know how to reassure them "because I don't know where these rumors are coming from."

Paula Spurrier, who has a child in fifth grade at the school, said she heard Thursday that the school would have one fewer teacher.

"I think this will lead to more requests for variances," she said. "We have no music, no art. We feel like the poor stepchild and now we are slapped with this."

Slaby said the number of students enrolled in Hillside is dropping, and when that happens, the staff is also reduced.

"The teachers follow the students and basically they've been losing students for the last few years," Slaby said. "They lost 20 kids in the last few years, so we have to have some equity in the district."

He said Storey County's other elementary school, Hugh Gallagher in Virginia City, had a student-teacher ratio of 20 to 1, and it wouldn't be fair to Hugh Gallagher students to keep Hillside at a much lower ratio. Now, he said, the ratios are more compatible.

"Hillside has things other schools don't, and other schools have things Hillside doesn't have," he said.

Slaby also said the choice of which classes to combine was made by Vice Principal Marta Spandau and the teaching staff.

"We have a policy in our district to go by site-based management and we support the decisions of the teaching staff in the school," he said.

He said further staffing at Hillside depends on the housing market, the economy and if Hillside continues to lose students.

Spurrier said she felt the new staffing would cause more parents to request variances and take their children out of Hillside.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.


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