BRADENTON -- The Manatee County School Board took the first steps to close Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School on Tuesday night.
With a 5-0 vote, the board unanimously approved setting up a public hearing to change area attendance zones, to take into account where Superintendent Diana Greene has proposed closing Orange Ridge and sending the bulk of the school's students to Rogers Garden Elementary School about a mile away.
The public hearing will allow the community to comment on the proposed change put forward by Greene last month.
"This is basically implementing (policy) 5.7 with a public hearing on April 12 to bring a recommendation to the school board on redistricting students from Orange Ridge-Bullock," Greene said.
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After the public hearing, the board will most likely vote to redistrict the schools and effectively close Orange Ridge as students will no longer be zoned to attend there.
Closing Orange Ridge and moving the students to Rogers Garden -- and some other surrounding schools -- is the most immediate proposal from a long-term plan aimed at helping balance district enrollment.
Other proposals include building a new high school and a new elementary school, moving students out of Wakeland Elementary School into Johnson Middle School and transforming Blackburn Elementary School into an early learning center.
The goal is to have Orange Ridge students in their new school by August, in time for the 2016-17 school year. The dis
trict is following its set policies and procedures in changing the school boundaries.
Committees are being formed to get out the word and to work through the attendance zones. Once the decision is approved after the public hearing in April, it will be final.
Board members seem to favor Greene's proposal.
In other business, the school board unanimously approved spending almost $10 million during the next five years to overhaul the district's antiquated business technology systems.
"This is a time and materials contract. We've estimated the amounts to the best of our ability," said Patrick Fletcher, chief information and technology officer. "If anything is to change it must go through a change order process."
The five-year implementation, maintenance and support cost is expected to total $9.8 million.
Board members were concerned the contract didn't have a "not to exceed" clause amount. John Colon said if costs suddenly went up and the company wanted to charge more, the district would be on the hook for the increased price.
Board member Dave Miner made multiple requests to delay the vote, but his motions failed.
"This is an excellent contract and we do have all our ducks in order," Greene said.
Deputy Superintendent of Operations Don Hall and his staff have been working to find a new system since Hall arrived in 2013. The current system used in the district is too old and cannot perform the functions necessary for a district so large.
The district will work with Oracle and PeopleSoft, a company that has worked with Seminole, Palm Beach and Lee county schools, for the new software.
The software will help payroll, human resources and all the other district business functions. They hope to be up and running in 2017.
"This is a very large project we are trying to get done by April 1, 2017," Fletcher said.
Fletcher said he believes the district will hit the mark.
"I also believe it will be a rough 13 months," he said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.