Superintendent exploring idea of adding new middle school

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Clovis schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm addresses the crowd during a public informational meeting regarding potential student growth.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

The Clovis Municipal Schools superintendent is exploring adding sixth-graders to CMS’s definition of a middle-schooler, and adding an extra middle school, as an avenue to deal with potential growth.

Rhonda Seidenwurm says she is considering the action because today’s sixth-grader is exponentially more sophisticated than she was at the same age.

About two dozen residents and school officials came to the informational meeting on those issues Monday at Clovis High School.

With the military population set to rise at Cannon Air Force Base with its transition to Air Force Special Operations, the school system expects to have a 2014-15 student population of 9,855, up from this year’s count of 7,981.

Seidenwurm said a growth committee was tasked to come up with efficient and effective solutions to the growth. The findings may, she said, have shelved her hopes for a vocational center at the high school.

“I had to admit,” Seidenwurm said, “as we went through the process, the data didn’t support what Rhonda’s heart wanted to do. We have to follow the data to be effective and efficient.”

The proposal, Seidenwurm said, is to build a third middle school on donated land either at Llano Estacado Boulevard and Martin Luther King Boulevard or north of Norris Street and Wilhite Road.

With the sixth-graders leaving their current elementary schools, Seidenwurm said those campuses would regain some capacity and the district could have a few years to study where or if it would need to build an additional elementary school.

This year’s second-graders would be the first sixth-graders under the change.

Clovis Schools Band Director Bill Allred said the change would benefit fine arts.

“I want to do it next year,” he said. “It would be absolutely ideal for us.”

Since band starts in sixth grade, Allred said, the district has 12 teachers handling band director responsibilities on top of other duties. A change would put sixth-grade band on just three campus sites and allow for team-teaching at the middle school level.

The hope is to get the building early through a lease-purchase agreement. The arrangement has an agency provide the money for construction up front, often with higher charges up front, and involves a lease agreement with an ongoing option to pay the balance in full.

The advantages, Seidenwurm said, are that prices are locked in and the district gets the building quicker.

The middle school would be paid for with 80 percent of funding coming through the state’s Public School Finance Authority, and 20 percent through local dollars.

A mil levy won’t be on the ballot for two years, so Seidenwurm said the school district would like to get a vote of confidence on the ballot as a blessing to build against future mil dollars on a lease-purchase agreement.

Fast facts
• What: Clovis Municipal Schools Board of Education meeting
• When: 5:30 p.m. tonight
• Where: Parkview Elementary School (1121 Maple Street).
• Subject: Discussion of particulars of a recommendation to build a new middle school. A work-study session is planned after a facility tour.