SOUTHWICK, Mass. (The Westfield News) – The school committee held their meeting at the Southwick Regional High School on Tuesday night. Superintendent Jen Willard gave her thoughts of what the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District would look like with the two options that came from the school feasibility study.
Before Willard dove into her presentation, she recognized the large turnout of Granville residents who had great interest in the discussion regarding the Granville Village School.
“You do passionately love your school and we’ve (school committee) heard you,” said Willard.
Willard began the presentation by looking at the history of the school district. The district regionalized into three towns in 2011 when Granville joined, and 2012 was the first school year for the new district.
According to Willard’s findings, the three towns were able to cut capital spending from $600,000 to $350,000 in 2012. Willard went on to say that the $350,000 for capital spending has remained a constant since.
Looking at enrollments provided from the Massachusetts School and District Profiles, Willard showed the crowd what the enrollment has been for the Granville Village School, for kindergarten through sixth grade.
Since the 2012-13 school year, the school’s enrollment for those grades has steadily declined. In that same year, the enrollment was 103, followed by 101 then 91 in 2014-15, and then 78 in 2016-17.
Another important element in the presentation was the proper classroom size. Willard believes that the most effective classroom is anywhere from 18 to 24 students.
At the Granville Village School, there are at least five full-sized classroom areas for small group instruction.
If the school was to close, students who have experienced smaller class sizes would have to be in a bigger class size at either Powder Mill School or Woodland School.
For the planned operating capacities for both the Woodland School and the Powder Mill School, Willard used the information that NESDEC provided.
With the 2018 enrollment projected to be 314 at the Woodland School, 20 additional students from Granville would still have the building under capacity by 21%. A projected enrollment in 2018 for Powder Mill School is at 391, and 49 more students from Granville would have the building at 31% below capacity.
The addition of Granville students to either school, would create bigger classroom sizes, but one that Willard sees as a positive.
“Being around other students is where students learn best,” said Willard.
Willard also pointed out to the people who may be highly affected to classroom size.
“What has the greatest impact is the teacher in front of that classroom,” said Willard.
The presentation also showed some of the benefits if the Granville Village School was to close. The hope would be to shorten the bus rides for Granville students and making sure their time on the bus doesn’t exceed an hour long. Willard also talked about the fact that some third and fourth grade students could combine as a class and interact, and as well as fifth and sixth grade.
When going through the second option for the school, in which it would remain open, Willard ensured the public that the school wouldn’t be the same as it is right now.
“I can’t keep it staffed the way it is staffed right now,” said Willard.
Willard said that four classroom teachers would be retained and that the principal would become a teacher leader. Classroom sizes would also be similar to the Woodland and Powder Mill schools.
After laying out both options, Willard proclaimed what the ultimate goal would be regardless of which option will be chosen.
“It’s really going to be about the best education for all the students in the district,” said Willard.
With the presentation being a part of a regular school committee meeting, there was the usual opportunity for public comment. In the second and last chance for public comment, the Granville community spoke out.
Steve Cook spoke about the classroom sizes. He referred to the Center for Public Education, as it reports that 13 to 17 students in a classroom is the right size for kindergarten through third grade.
Due to the small quantity of students in the Granville Village School and in each classroom, Cook didn’t feel that Willard’s proposed classroom size for the district was effective.
“It doesn’t say anything because the sample size isn’t large enough,” said Cook.
Roxanne Blaze was concerned as she believes that the decision on the Granville Village School will result from certain numbers.
“They’re making this decision based on projections,” said Blaze.
Tracy Flarida also brought up the idea that she thinks a number of Southwick parents have no idea they could send their children to the Granville Village School.
Flarida and several other Granville residents would like to see a third option, which would involve Southwick or Tolland kids attending the Granville Village School.
Right now, Flarida doesn’t see any reason why the school should be closed.
“It has to be proven to the school and the community that they (school committee) can,” said Flarida.
Willard’s presentation will be available on the school district website shortly. The next school committee meeting is scheduled for Jan. 24.
Granville Village School News:
- Town of Granville informational hearing for residents
- Parents fighting to keep Granville Village School open
- People rally together, support Granville Village School
- Study: Closing Granville Village would save the district nearly $1M
- 100-year-old school in Hampden County could soon close
- Granville parents fight to keep local school open