BOE plans to close Cedar Park, form STEAM academy at R.B. Hudson

Published 6:40 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Selma City School Board discussed details of a plan Tuesday night to close Cedar Park Elementary School next school year and move sixth graders down to elementary school.

The plan also involves developing a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) Academy at R.B. Hudson for sixth through eighth grades.

“We’re operating more buildings than our student enrollment can or should support at this time,” said Dr. Avis Williams, superintendent of Selma City Schools. “We earn funding based on average daily membership, and the funding does decrease as our student enrollment decreases.”

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The plan has not been voted on yet, but will be on first read next week and is expected to be voted on sometime in January.

If approved, Cedar Park would close next school year, and those students would be moved to Edgewood Elementary School. Williams said transportation will be provided to those students.

The proximity of Edgewood to Cedar Park and space availability at the school played a factor in the decision. Johnny Moss, president of the school board, said last month that Edgewood could take on an additional 300 students if needed. Moss said there are around 120 students enrolled at Cedar Park this year.

“What I want them (parents) to understand is that any decision we make is based on students first and ensuring their needs are going to be met and ensuring that we’re able to give them the best quality education possible,” Williams said.

The plan to close Cedar Park includes transportation for those students to Edgewood, which is around one mile away.

There will also be some changes for middle schoolers if the plan is approved. Instead of going to School of Discovery, fifth grade students will remain at their elementary schools for sixth grade. Current sixth grade students at School of Discovery will stay at the school for seventh grade instead of going to R.B. Hudson. Once the STEAM Academy is completed, SOD will close, and all seventh and eighth graders will go to R.B. Hudson.

Williams said the closing, if approved, does not call for a reduction in teachers.

Williams said the two goals of the plan is to right-size the system’s schools while decreasing overall costs and to rebrand middle grades through development of a STEAM Academy.

She said right-sizing is a way to adjust as the city’s population decreases and the system’s enrollment changes.

During her presentation Tuesday night, Williams discussed a chart that showed the decrease in population and how it correlates with a decrease in enrollment. Since 2010, enrollment has decreased from 3,899 students to 3,144. Enrollment dropped in all of those years except for one.

“This is evidence that our funding is going to be impacted because we do of course receive funding based on student numbers, and we have lost a significant number of students over the years as the city’s population has decreased as well,” Williams said.

Money saved from closing Cedar Park will be used to support the STEAM Academy renovations at R.B. Hudson.

“I love the idea of being able to give our students greater opportunities, and I love the idea of our students being able to compete globally,” Williams said. “There are so many STEAM activities that we could be doing.”

She said the STEAM Academy could include coding, orchestra, dance and computer science classes among many others.

The academy, if approved, is scheduled to open for the 2019-2020 school year.