A near capacity crowd filled theauditorium Thursday night, as parents and residents anxiously awaited the results of a study commissioned by the district to determine the feasibility of reorganizing the elementary schools.
Under the proposed plan, still in the exploratory stage of development, schools would be separated by grade level, not geographic location. When the district began to assign incoming students to schools specifically to avoid overcrowding, the board decided to look into an alternative measure, according to Superintendent Dr. Roseanne Melucci.
“If money were not a factor, we could certainly just keep on adding on teachers and have small class sizes on both sides of town…” Melucci said in her opening remarks. “However, since we are experiencing the worst recession since the school district began and we know we have to solve these problems within the budget we have, we are being asked to do more with the resources that are available to us.”
After speaking with districts of similar enrollment, Melucci says she suggested that the board look into the “grade clustering” option.
Michael J. Dutkowski, an advisory solutions consultant for the New York State Boards Association, was hired to conduct the study. Using data that included focus groups, enrollment projections, facility utilization, and building operating capacity, Dutkowski determined that a model putting kindergarten through second grade in Centre Avenue Elementary School and grades three through six in Rhame Avenue Elementary School would be the most feasible for the district.
Switching the schools, that is, putting kindergarten through second grade in Rhame Elementary and grades three though six in Centre Avenue, would also be feasible but would be harder to sustain over time, according to Dutkowski.
Conversely, Dutkowski stated that a kindergarten through third grade and fourth through six grade grouping would not work, citing a lack of classrooms in Centre Avenue and a lack of future expansion options in Rhame Avenue.
The presentation closed with what Dutkowski sees as benefits to the plan. Those benefits included: increased consistency in “curriculum development, presentation, and common assessments,” the opportunity to form student groups based on the individual expertise of a specific teacher, effectively concentrating resources such as special ed, English as a second language, and academic intervention services, and a more efficient grouping of specific grade level instruction materials.
Concerns about the plan include transportation, individual school start times, and reduced interaction between peers, according to Dutkowski.
“This is a difficult situation and a difficult decision for any board to make,” Dutkowski said. "This board...is going to consider the notions of both quality of instruction and economies and efficiency as they go through their deliberations”
The board stressed that the presentation of findings is only a step in the continuing evaluation process. There will be three community reaction meetings in which residents can pose questions to both the board and Dutkowski.
*A full copy of Dutkowski’s power point presentation will be available on the school districts’ website on Monday.
Community Reaction Meeting Dates
1/31/12 - 7p.m. @ Rhame Avenue Elementary School
2/1/12 - 7p.m. @ Centre Avenue Elementary School
2/6/12 - 7pm @ East Rockaway High School