Black Oak, Twain Harte merger is discussed

Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat /

Black Oak Elementary and Twain Harte Middle schools, which operate on the same campus, could soon become one school again.

Twain-Harte Long Barn Union School District's Board of Trustees on Tuesday directed Superintendent Jeff Winfield to look into combining the schools.

Winfield said Wednesday that combining the schools would help create a sense of unity among students, staff and community members.

"When people talk about our school, they call it Twain Harte School," he said.

The elementary and middle schools were originally one school, Twain Harte Elementary, but divided during a period of growth in the district.

The district opened an additional campus to house kindergarten through fourth-grade students and named it Black Oak Elementary. Fifth- through eighth-grade students remained on the original campus, renamed Twain Harte Middle School.

Declining enrollment and lack of funding led to the closure of the Black Oak campus in 2007 and all students have since been housed at the original campus. However, students are technically enrolled at either Black Oak Elementary or Twain Harte Middle.

The Black Oak campus now houses the Twain Harte-Long Barn district office, board meetings, a Head Start program and a community theater.

Winfield said combining the schools is not a response to enrollment, which is actually slightly rising. About 300 students are enrolled in the schools, up from a low of about 250.

Winfield said that with the board's encouragement, he will now communicate with the state to see if there are any unforeseen ramifications or costs associated with combining the schools.

Winfield said many community members have already expressed support for combining the two schools, but that he and board members are seeking public input.

"I would love to hear community input," Board President Tracie Walters said Wednesday. "This is a school in their district, and they should be allowed to be heard."

Winfield hopes a decision is reached by the end of this month.

11908419
The Union Democrat
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