Starting this fall, White City and Mountain View elementary schools will merge, dividing students by grade between the neighboring campuses.
Kindergartners through second-graders will go to White City Elementary, while third- through fifth-graders will attend classes on the Mountain View campus, Eagle Point School District officials said.
The School Board voted in favor of the merger on Jan. 9. This spring, it will hear recommendations for a new name, mascot and school color, said Ginny Walker, principal of White City Elementary, who will share duties at the new school with Mountain View Principal Karina Rizo.
Each campus will have 15 teachers, five for each grade. The two schools are separated by a playground that they share.
"You could throw a rock from one building to the next," Walker said.
Restructuring the schools will create a sense of community, balance class sizes, foster professional development among the teachers and remove the current no-boundary issue, Rizo said.
"The whole point is to have everyone together," she said.
The arrangement is not a new concept for the two elementary schools, which operated as a primary (K-3) school and intermediate (4-6) school until 1997. The schools have been operating independently ever since and, for awhile, offered different curriculum. In 2003, the sixth-graders were moved to White Mountain Middle School.
However, new grading and Common Core standards have pushed the schools to collaborate more.
"Currently, we are doing the exact same thing at two sites side-by-side," Walker said.
"There are no boundaries between the schools, so it's confusing for families who come to know where they should enroll," she said.
The district strives to put incoming students at the school with the smallest class size for the child's grade, but for families with two or more children, a sibling may be placed in a full class.
The goal is to not split families because that would mean two PTO meetings, two family science nights and two monthly assemblies, Rizo said.
"Last week, we enrolled a new family with kids in kindergarten, third and fifth grades," she said. "Our fifth-grade (enrollment) is really high, but our kindergarten is low."
Currently, 435 students are enrolled at White City Elementary and 315 students at Mountain View. Walker said that under the new school model, she is predicting enrollment to be more balanced, with 374 students at the kindergarten through second-grade site and 357 students at the third- through fifth-grade site.
After the district announced its intention to offer full-time kindergarten programs starting this fall, both schools were in line for a remodel.
"We're adding full-day kindergarten to our schools so each of us needed to hire additional people and find space for those classrooms," Walker said. "It put us in a position where we both were going to do some remodeling. By putting all the kinder classrooms together in one space, we only need to do some remodeling at one site."
This summer, Mountain View Elementary will convert its storage and locker room areas into three classrooms — two for English Language Learners and one for special education.
Other renovations planned for this summer include painting the outside of both schools the same color, installing a fence around the entire campus, repaving one of the parking lots and adding a garden and handicap-accessible play structure.
Neither Walker nor Rizo knew how much these improvements would cost the district.
"The new classrooms are because of the merger," Rizo said. "The other stuff needed to be done, anyway."
Administration and staff from both schools met with PTO groups and parents in January to discuss the union. The two PTO groups have since consolidated into one "active" group and elected officers, Walker said.
After parents and staff pick a name for the school, the students will get to choose the mascot, Rizo said, adding that billy goats, falcons, mustangs and dragons are already on the table.
"Me and my friends were talking about the chubby wildcats," said Mountain View fifth-grader Anthony Torres on Thursday.
Other fifth-graders weighed in. Hailey Burcham suggested unicorns, Diego Santillan liked sharks, and Lucas Hibben thought pit bulls were more representative of the school.
School ends June 6, and June 9 is a scheduled teacher work day. The move will take place the weekend of June 10-11.