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Bobby Ray, West to stay unchanged
School Board chair James Bennett says he sees no reason to change a system that's working well.

Bobby Ray and West Elementary will stay unchanged after the Board of Education unanimously voted Thursday night not to tinker with grade levels at the schools.
The 4-0 decision came in front of a standing-room-only, partisan crowd crammed into the meeting room to show support for keeping the current grade levels at both schools.
The School Board had toyed with the idea of making West Elementary for grades preK-2 and Bobby Ray for grades 3-5. They are currently both preK-5.
The idea was introduced as the school system prepares to make upgrades to both schools. However, a study by architects who will be doing the improvements said there would be very little financial savings by making a grade-level change.
During the special-called meeting Thursday night at the Central Office, Bobby Ray principal Monti Hillis presented her findings to the School Board, findings she said indicated any grade-level change would be bad for students.
“We want to do what is right for the students,” said Hillis, noting there would be negative impacts on parental involvement, academics and morale if a change was made.
Specifically, Hillis pointed to studies that show there is a negative impact on learning the more schools change. Should West and Bobby Ray change their grade levels, it would mean another forced change for students, she said.
“Adding another movement isn’t the right thing,” Hillis said, noting the older students at her school serve as mentors to the younger students. “I believe it would be another strike against them.”
West principal Michelle Lewis agreed with Hillis.
“Any benefits are far outweighed by the negatives,” Lewis said. “I think we are going to be losing a lot.”
School Board chair James Bennett pointed out he could find no precedent for such a grade change, making him worry the schools would be serving as guinea pigs.
“If something is working, why change it?” Bennett said, noting the rumor mill already had the sky falling, with social media claims that jobs would be lost. “No teachers are going to lose their jobs. It was just a fact-finding thing.”
The measure to keep the grade levels the same passed unanimously to the cheers of those in attendance.