BOWLING GREEN - When Bowling Green schools began talking about realigning grades and closing its older school buildings last year, protest signs went up across the district.
The plan was put on hold in January, and residents were assured that things would remain status quo for the 2004-2005 school year.
On Monday night, the school board plans to open a new community discussion in hopes of finding out what is important to residents when it comes to their schools. The special board meeting is set for 6 p.m. at the high school band room.
"We're going to try to do a very in-depth effort with small discussion groups, coffee klatsches, if you will," said Hugh Caumartin, superintendent.
A new committee is being formed whose members will be trained to go out into the district and facilitate the small group discussions. Mr.
Caumartin said they won't be asking for solutions, just trying to gauge people's values.
"This issue can obviously be very divisive within a community," he said. "While this is something we can plow ahead and do, we don't want to do that. We want to do this in a way that would be acceptable to everyone. Well, it will probably never be acceptable to everyone, but we want to come up with a plan that reflects the basic values of the community."
Eric Myers, school board president, said the board wants residents involved from all over the district, which extends as far west as Custar and Milton Center.
"At this point, we're not going with any preconceived plan, but ultimately our goal is to build a new middle school," Dr. Myers said.
The three-story junior high school on West Wooster Street near downtown was built in the 1920s and has had several additions over the years. School officials say it's a difficult and expensive building to maintain.
"I think the board and I agree the junior high needs to be replaced," Mr. Caumartin said.
Under the proposal formulated last year, the district would have closed Milton Elementary, consolidated kindergarten through third grade at two elementaries and housed fourth, fifth and sixth graders at the three remaining elementary buildings.
In a later phase, the district would have sought a tax levy to fund construction of a middle school for grades six through eight to replace the junior high, which now houses grades seven and eight.
Crim Elementary would have been expanded to house grades four and five, and two more elementaries, South Main and Ridge, would have been closed.
Residents said they opposed the loss of neighborhood schools and the idea that youngsters would change elementary schools, and the likelihood that students would spend more time on the bus.