Parents, teachers discuss overcrowding at Cape Girardeau school forum

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Overcrowding at Cape Girardeau elementary schools was a point of concern for community members at a Thursday night forum to address facility issues.

About 20 people met in the cafeteria of Jefferson Elementary School to discuss construction and renovation projects for the district.

One teacher said the situation was dire.

"Two years ago we needed classrooms," said Beth Thomas, an art teacher at Clippard and Franklin Elementary. She said teachers and counselors are switching rooms to make the most of their space and accommodate more students.

"We're overcrowded," she said. "We're so overcrowded."

A parent said elementary schools have other renovation needs. Sarah Guebert, whose daughter attends fourth grade at Alma Schrader Elementary, said the older facilities are insufficient for assemblies and student programs.

"Every time you have something in the gym, it's like the 'Peanuts' teacher talking," she said, imitating the muddled sounds from the cartoon.

School board president Kyle McDonald said, with community support, projects could begin in 14 months to ease the burden at elementary schools.

A committee of teachers, administrators and business leaders started meeting last month to develop ideas for a construction and renovation plan. School officials said they hope to have a plan by summer and a no-tax-increase bond issue before voters in April 2010.

A popular idea emerging from the committee planning sessions would house sixth through eight grades in one building and move fifth-graders into the elementary schools. To alleviate space issues, school officials have considered converting Central Middle School into an elementary school and building another, possibly on the other side of Interstate 55.

The forum was the second in a series of three public meetings to encourage feedback from the community.

"We've been trying to ask the hard questions, put everything out on the table," said superintendent Dr. James Welker.

The first forum, held at Central Junior High School on Monday, revealed support for construction projects at Central High School, including sports and performing arts facilities.

The third forum will be at 6 p.m. Monday in the cafeteria of Blanchard Elementary, 1829 N. Sprigg St.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

520 S. Minnesota Ave. Cape Girardeau, MO

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