The time has come to start helping the Schenectady City School District reorganize its students.
In the next six to eight months, the district will draw new attendance zones for each of its schools. The redistricting process begins with a community meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Schenectady High School.
The district has already divided up neighborhoods into small segments that it considers to be inviolate. The goal is to keep together children who play together on weekends and know each other’s families.
School officials want residents to speak up now if they have made any errors in creating those segments.
But that’s just the beginning. Then the administrators have to assign schools to each segment.
Superintendent Laurence Spring wants to do more than just even out the school population, so that no schools are overcrowded and none have empty classrooms. He wants the school populations to be diverse as well.
“We want to avoid the notion that here’s a school of privilege and here’s the school where all the poor kids go,” he said.
But Spring also wants most children to walk to elementary school — which makes it difficult to create diversity in neighborhoods that don’t have much diversity.
“It might be harder to do that in an elementary school, since they’re drawing from an immediate area,” he said.
Spring also wants to cut back on busing, which is often the easy way to create diversity.
“We want to dramatically reduce the amount of busing we have,” he said. To do that and have diversity will “take a little bit of thinking.”
The changes might not take effect until 2016, but the preparation needs to be done now, Spring added.
People buying a house need to know where their child will be going to school, he said.
And there will be various difficulties with individual families that don’t want to switch schools, while other families will move into the new zones and possibly change the balance of the schools, he added.
“We want to leave ourselves as much time as we can to try to minimize those problems,” Spring said.
Redistricting is building toward a reorganized school district in 2016. The handful of K-8 schools will no longer exist, which has caused some controversy. Instead, Schenectady will have three middle schools, all for grades 6-8, and all of its elementary schools will end at fifth grade.