The Schenectady City School District Board of Education voted Wednesday night to move the district toward restructuring its schools on a model that includes grade 6-8 middle schools districtwide.
The vote came after board president Cathy Lewis laid out the process for considering the new direction, which stretched back to late 2011.
Wednesday night’s vote, Lewis said, was to get the board on record, so planning for future building projects and proposals could move forward.
“I wanted to get documented, essentially for the future, what we were thinking at this point in time,” Lewis said. “Things will change. Things will change between the full implementation of this.”
Before the vote, each board member explained why they supported the plan, which was approved by a 6-0 vote, with board member Ronald Lindsay absent.
The board approved a resolution to restructure the district into three levels, schools with pre-kindergarten to fifth grade, schools with grades 6-8 and the high school with grades 9-12.
Exactly how many middle schools there would be was not discussed, but officials have indicated there could be four.
The model would replace the district’s current configuration, which includes some K-8 schools and others that are K-5.
The resolution took effect immediately, though board members stressed the earliest it could be implemented was the fall of 2016.
The vote also came after several parents spoke out in favor of a uniform K-8 model. But board members cited equity among district students and an ability to offer more programs to middle-school students under the K-6 model.
Board member Andy Chestnut noted previous arguments against K-8, that some schools couldn’t offer advanced math in eighth grade due to numbers. He noted he said earlier that problem alone could be solved without a full reconfiguration.
Wednesday night, however, he said he recognizes that is only a very small part of the argument. A middle-school setting, he said, could offer more programs to a larger number of students.
“I realize that it just provides a whole lot more possibility for kids’ growth, which is really what education is about for me,” Chestnut said.
Board member John Foley cited several articles on which grade configuration was best, finding no consensus. He noted one simply suggested focusing on what was right for the children ages 10 to 14 in the particular district.
“In my mind, that summarizes where we’re at,” Foley said. “We need to create middle schools that are designed specifically for those 10- to 14-year-olds, so that we meet their needs, so that we have all the resources available in those schools, so that they can be successful.”
Certainty of a school path was important to board member Ed Kosiur. The board, he said, must commit to stick to the long-range plan.
Equity was the issue for Ann Reilly. She noted that converting K-5 schools to K-8 would have been more expensive. However, she said that wasn’t a factor in the ultimate decision.
“But,” she said, “to spend that much money and then not offer equal opportunity to all our students, I could not sleep with that.”
Then there are the district’s immediate needs, board member Cheryl Nechamen said. There’s a population surge coming and the district must be prepared, she said.
She also noted inequities in the current model.
“We really are trying to give every child the same chance,” Nechamen said, “not that you got lucky winning the lottery to what might be perceived as a good school, but that you have a good opportunity at every school.
“That’s why I’m supporting this option.”