Several parents expressed concerns about moving students to new schools too often during a public meeting Thursday on a redistricting plan for the Schenectady City School District.
Under a recommended option for drawing attendance zones for city schools, some students might be forced to switch schools multiple times each year. Janet Tracey, 40, said her kindergartener would be moved around too much.
“Kids who are in kindergarten at Howe — some of them are zoned for Elmer and Zoller — could potentially be switched back to Howe,” Tracey said during a redistricting community forum Thursday evening at Schenectady High School. “Rather than having them attend several different schools, can we keep them at Howe and reduce the number of transitions?”
Under elementary school option 3, Tracey’s child — who currently attends Howe — would be sent to Elmer for first grade and then back to Howe for second grade. The redistricting changes would take effect in September 2016.
Lori McKenna, director of planning and accountability, said the district does not want students attending one school in 2014-15, another school in 2015-16 and another school again in 2016-17. That problem will be addressed, she told Tracey.
“The next day after the plan is approved we will consider that and hit the ground running,” McKenna said.
A 20-member committee made up of community members, school officials and parents recommended option 3 for redistricting. McKenna presented that option to the Board of Education on Wednesday. The board plans to vote on the plan next month.
The committee originally juggled 20 options for drawing attendance zones before narrowing the list to three. Ultimately, the third option was chosen based on a variety of factors, including busing, diversity and economics.
“Some of our schools are over-utilized and some are under-utilized right now,” McKenna said. “We’re hoping to bring them all to equal capacity in terms of enrollment. We also want to make more neighborhood schools and reduce the number of students that will be transported.”
The feeder pattern from elementary school to middle school under option 3 is Hamilton, Pleasant Valley and Van Corlaer to Mont Pleasant; Howe, King, Yates and Zoller to Oneida; and Lincoln, Paige, Keane and Woodlawn to Central Park.
Under option 3, the district would require 48 buses for elementary and middle school transportation. That’s down from the current 54 buses but more than the 44 buses proposed under option 2. But option 2 was not the best choice in terms of distribution, McKenna said.
Barbara Pantalone, 74, graduated from the former Mont Pleasant High School and still lives in that neighborhood. She said she is against the current plan to renovate the middle school for classroom space while some rooms are being used to house district offices.
Part of the middle school is being renovated to create sixth-grade learning centers, where students could more easily transition from fifth to sixth grades and then into seventh grade. Pantalone said instead of spending money on construction for new space, administrators should simply move out of the building.
“Mont Pleasant Middle School was designed as a school, not to be used for district offices,” she said. “The children should be put first. Classrooms there now are being used by school administration. That’s why there aren’t enough classrooms. Tearing up part of the building is not efficient. I think what you’re doing is a disservice to the students and the parents.”
McKenna stressed that the renovation plan is part of a $70 million capital project approved in March. The same approach is being taken at Oneida and Central Park to transition students smoothly from one grade level to another, she said.
“Our families were really confused when they enrolled in our school district,” she said. “We want to standardize the grade configuration of our schools. We also can’t have 1,000 students at Mont Pleasant and 500 at Central Park and Oneida. We’re trying to balance enrollment in each middle school.”
The grade levels for schools will be adjusted by fall 2016, with elementary schools serving pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, middle schools serving grades 6-8 and high school still serving grades 9-12.
By the time the redistricting plan sets in, Elmer and Franklin D. Roosevelt elementary schools will be discontinued, Howe will be repurposed as a pre-kindergarten through fifth grade school and Oneida, Central Park and Mont Pleasant will operate as middle schools.
“We will have about 18 months to finalize a plan and communicate it to families so everything will be ready for redistricting in 2016 and the opening of our three middle schools,” McKenna said. “Not every family will be happy with the redistricting plans, but now, more students and families are within walking distance to their neighborhood schools.”
To view an online map of the lines drawn as part of option 3, visit www.croppermap.com/schenectady.
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