Students, staff prepare for Prairieview-Ogden merger
ROYAL – Jill Robbins at Ogden Elementary School and Brian Johnson at Prairieview Elementary School planned ahead last year so their fourth-graders would make a smooth transition to their new combined fifth-grade class.
The two teachers assigned pen pals to correspond with each other in their two classes, part of two separate districts last year that will open as one district this fall.
Superintendent Vic White, who worked at both buildings, carried the letters back and fourth.
"We did videos so the students could introduce themselves and talked about what they liked," Robbins said. "Mr. White set up a day when the fourth-graders at Royal would stay with us at Ogden for the morning. We did computer programs, we played kickball and we went on a field trip in May."
"It was a very positive experience," Robbins said. "The students get along well. They're from similar backgrounds, and many of them are already together in Scouts and church groups. My feeling is that they will get along famously."
White said putting all the district's fifth- and sixth-graders together in the Ogden building, which is now called the Prairieview Ogden South Elementary school, will be one of the biggest changes when school opens Aug. 22.
White said the Royal building will hold students in kindergarten through fourth grade, and Prairieview Ogden Junior High School at Flatville will hold all seventh- and eighth-graders from both districts. Previously children in grades five through eight attended classes there.
"Sports will be a change," said White, who was picked as superintendent of the consolidated district earlier this year. "All fifth- and sixth-grade sports will be at the Ogden facility and all seventh- and eighth-grade sports will be at the junior high school."
He said he expects the new district's teams to be more competitive because they'll have more players. White said Prairieview-Ogden is joining a new conference, the Three Rivers Conference, with St. Joseph Grade School, Chrisman, Armstrong-Potomac, Westville and other districts.
White hired a new principal, Jeff Isenhower, who will be mainly at the Ogden elementary but will also oversee the junior high school. Isenhower, a former Centennial High School mathematics teacher, was assistant principal at Urbana High School last year.
Meanwhile, Jim Morgan, who retired as superintendent of the Ogden district when the merger was approved last March, has come back to serve as interim principal at the junior high school for a year to help everyone get through the transition.
"Then he'll retire again,and we may go with a head teacher at the junior high," White said.
The combined district will have about 280 students.
White said the merger will give officials and teachers an opportunity to make curriculum improvements for all children. "It's also good for socialization for the fifth-through-eighth-graders," he said. "We'll have two sections of 15 to 20 students for each grade."
He said Isenhower will be in charge of the curriculum plans.
White said he expects to get money from the state, which offers incentives for consolidation. He hopes it amounts to about $1 million spread out over four years.
"That will help keep the tax rate down," White said.
Isenhower visited his new school for the first time Monday, a week before he was officially required to come to work, and he said he was trying to figure out where everything is and what the schedule will be.
"I'm trying to get as much accurate information as possible," said Isenhower, a Mahomet native. "We're trying to consolidate things both districts have done in the past and get as much information to parents and teachers as we can as soon as we can. "
He said his long-range goal has been to become a principal in a small district, so the Prairieview Ogden job is a dream come true.
"It's a big change of pace, going from an urban school to a rural school," Isenhower said. "I want to know every kid's name. I want to know their parents. In urban schools, you can't."
Opal Buoy was actively involved in the Ogden parents and teachers organization last year. It merged with the Prairieview organization this summer, and the new organization is named PVO PTO. Buoy invites parents from both districts to get involved.
"We put our money together, and we're in the process of finding out what's needed at the schools and where it's needed," she said.
Buoy's son, Jacob, will be in fifth grade at the Ogden school. "The biggest thing he's worried about is it's a really close class and they'll be split up, but they're also looking forward to getting to know kids from the other school," she said.
"He's excited and apprehensive, and parents are in the same boat," Buoy said. "We don't know exactly how things will work, and we're waiting to see. But everyone's going forward pulling together. It's for our kids."