The closing of the Cargill plant in Plainview came as a gut punch to the entire community, the school district included. Plainview ISD is now working to change a tragedy into an opportunity, looking at restructuring its school system.
The district is going to close two schools, Lakeside, a fifth-grade campus, and Ash, a sixth-grade campus. Kevin Carter, executive director of the Plainview/Hale County Industrial Foundation, said he supports giving students a smoother path through school.
"They have a little bit more stability," Carter said. "Having that relationship where they're not in one grade level, then all of a sudden, they're shoved in as freshmen to high school where they're the low person on the totem pole, when they've been by themselves for four straight years."
Fifth-grade students will be spread among six elementary schools. Sixth-grade students will attend two junior high campuses, Coronado and Estacado, which currently only teach seventh and eighth. One remaining question is how the changes will impact the district's teachers. Superintendent Rocky Kirk said he can't plant until he knows more about how the city's population settles.
"The challenge is going to be working through all the things you have to work through to figure out where staff placement needs to be within the context of Cargill closing," Kirk said. "So, depending on how many students we may lose, we'll have to adjust accordingly."
Though it's a tough time for the city of Plainview, Kirk said he's optimistic.
"There's always a silver lining to challenge, and I just tend to believe that Plainview, in the future, is going to be even stronger," Kirk said. "We're going to have some tough times, we're going to have to walk into the wind for a while. But when we get to the other side of it, our district is going to be stronger, more efficient, and more effective with what we're trying to do."
Kirk hopes to have the details sorted out by the end of the school year. He wants parents to have time to meet the teachers and get to know the schools.
The district is working with a demographer to determine whether Coronado and Estacado can hold the extra students. Until that work is complete, the district won't know the options regarding providing adequate space.