Schenectady school officials are expanding the number of openings at the district’s two kindergarten-8th grade magnet schools in response to demand and to alleviate crowding in the neighborhood schools.
Superintendent Eric Ely said he is opening up slots in first, third, fifth and seventh grade to help increase the population at Central Park International Magnet School by about 88 students to around 575 in the 2010-11 school year; that would be lower than the current enrollment.
This school year, the district moved the Howe students to Central Park to create a K-8 program and also expanded King Math Science Technology and Invention Magnet School to K-8. Enrollment now stands at 642 for Central Park and 486 for King.
Currently, Ely said there is a large class of about 250 eighth-graders in the Central Park school. That class will move on to high school next year and the population will shrink.
Board of Education member Jeff Janiszewski said adding slots will help alleviate the crowding in some of the buildings. “I’m hearing a lot of positive feedback about Central Park and interest from parents,” he said.
The district had about 500 student applications for magnet schools last year, an 18 percent increase.
Ely said the district will identify the number of slots for each grade level. “We just don’t know how many spots we’re going to have available.”
The deadline is April 12.
Once the applications are received, the district will hire an independent consultant to do a random lottery for those slots. Parents whose children are not picked by the lottery can be put on a waiting list.
Ely said most students made the transition from Howe to Central Park. Eight children left for unknown reasons, one chose to go to King and three left for special education placements.
At a recent Board of Education meeting, Central Park Principal Tonya Federico gave an update about the efforts to merge the new schools. Central Park got a face-lift over the summer with nearly all of its interior painted.
Also, older middle school-age students have been mentoring their younger counterparts by volunteering in classrooms and serving as “book buddies.”
Federico said the older students have learned to watch their behavior and language. “They’ve really taken on that sense of they have to act differently around a 5-year-old.”
There has been a decrease in the number of discipline referrals — 251 in the first quarter of this year compared with 581 during that same time last year.
Federico said there are 30 percent fewer middle school aged students in the school, but it is still a more than 50 percent decrease in disciplinary incidents.
Among the issues Federico cited are the different arrival and dismissal times for K-6 and seventh- and eighth-grade, which means a lot of staff time is spent before and after school. Also, the different schedule limits the ability of the entire school staff to meet as a group.
Ely said he is anticipating a large kindergarten class again this year. Last fall, the district was caught off guard by the number of families with young children enrolling in kindergarten. There were about 930 kindergartners, and it forced the district to hire teachers and add sections at the last minute. There are five sections of kindergarten being housed at the Howe Early Childhood Center.
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