LOCKHART — What will happen to Lockhart Elementary/Middle School after the end of the current school year? What will happen to its faculty and staff? What will happen to its student body?
Those are the questions facing the Union County School District and the Lockhart Community after the Union County Board of School Trustees, on a motion from Trustee Mark Ivey, seconded by Trustee Frank Hart, voted unanimously to allow Superintendent Dr. William Roach “to use his authority to assign employment to employees currently assigned to Lockhart Schools to ensure that none of the employees with the exception of temporary contracts and letters of agreement would lose their jobs for the 2018-19 school year.”
Currently, there are a total of 36 teachers and other staff assigned to LEMS.
The motion also directed Roach to “schedule a public forum at Lockhart to allow this Board to consider the information presented and make a decision concerning the best plan of action for the 2018-2019 instructional year.”
In casting his vote, Trustee Mike Massey said “I am voting so these people will have jobs and the people have a voice so I am voting yes. I know we will vote on the rest of it later but I want it to be understood that I am voting to secure jobs and a voice for the people.”
The forum will be held Monday, March 5 in the LEMS auditorium at 6:30 p.m. A notice issued by the district announcing the forum states that “speakers are limited to the Lockhart Community.” It defines the members of the community as:
• Parents/guardians of children currently attending the school.
• Elected officials in the Lockhart Community.
The flier states that persons wishing to speak can sign up to do so through the Superintendent’s Office until 12 p.m. Monday, March 5. It further states that all speakers will be limited to a maximum of three minutes.
As for any others in the community who desire to provide input, the flier states they may do so in writing to Dr. Roach by 12 p.m. Monday, March 5. Written comments may be hand delivered, mailed or emailed to email@example.com.
The Union County School District Office is located at 130 West Main Street, Union.
Monday’s vote comes a little over a decade after the closing of Lockhart High School which, along with Jonesville High School which was also closed, was consolidated into Union High School which was subsequently renamed Union County High School. At the time of its closing, Lockhart High School was also housed in the same facility as the middle and elementary schools which may be closed at the end of the current school year, the victims of demographic decline and rising costs.
Information sheets handed out by the district state that the LEMS student population, which currently stands at approximately 150, is projected to decrease to 84 by 2025. Of its current student body, 13 students are attending by special permission, without which they would otherwise be attending Monarch Elementary School (1), Foster Park Elementary School (5), Buffalo Elementary School (2), Jonesville Elementary/Middle School (1), and Sims Middle School (4). Another 13 are from outside the district from Chester (7) and York (6) counties.
The information sheet also shows that the number of students admitted to LEMS has declined most years over the past decade with the steepest declines occurring over the past three years:
• 231.92 in 2007-2008
• 209.62 in 2008-2009
• 197.97 in 2009-2010
• 200.36 in 2010-2011
• 201.73 in 2011-2012
• 210.76 in 2012-2013
• 194.69 in 2013-2014
• 191.26 in 2014-2015
• 164.76 in 2015-2016
• 156.58 in 2016-2017
• 147.73 in 2017-2018
The information sheets also point out that the class sizes at LEMS are either below or above the target class size of 22 students per teacher.
In the elementary school grades, the current class sizes are 15 (5k), 15 (1st grade), 13 (2nd grade), 24 (3rd grade), 16 (4th grade), and 16 (5th grade).
In the middle school grades, the current class sizes are 23 (6th grade), 19 (7th grade), and 13 (8th grade).
The information sheets also point out that in 2016-2017 the average per student cost at LEMS was $14,211.68 or almost twice that of Buffalo Elementary ($7,694.82), Foster Park Elementary ($7,664.46), JEMS ($7,680.53), and Monarch Elementary ($7,273.34).
In an interview with The Union Times Tuesday, Roach said that while no final decision has been made on the future of the school, the district is looking at all options to ensure that the students there have all possible educational opportunities.
Roach pointed out that because of its declining enrollment, the school has seen its athletic program decline and is not able to offer as many educational services that other schools in the district are able to. He pointed out that students at the school who want to play football have to do so at Jonesville. Roach said this is true of other sports as well, adding that LEMS has not had a baseball team in recent years. He said that while the school still offers some honors programs, it is unable to offer as many as Jonesville and Sims do to their middle school students.
When all this is taken into consideration, Roach said LEMS is not able to offer its students the variety of athletic and educational programs that other schools in the district do. He said this has to be kept in mind as the future of the school is decided.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.