Survey on school redistricting issued for Westfield

Credit: The Westfield News

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – At its next meeting on June 19, the Westfield School Committee is expected to vote on which redistricting option to pursue for the FY19 school year, when the lease on Russell Elementary School expires and all students return to Westfield. The options are to move the fifth grade to the middle schools and create two 5-8 middle schools, or one 5-6 intermediate school and one 7-8 middle school.

To that end, a survey has been sent to all stakeholders, including families with school-aged children and community members. The survey is also available on the district website at www.schoolsofwestfield.org. A robo-call to the school community about the survey will go out on Wednesday, June 7.

“We believe that stakeholder input is a critical part of this process,” said Westfield Public Schools superintendent Stefan Czaporowski, who added that the survey was developed in a collaborative effort between the district administrative team and the new parent advisory board (made up of one parent from each school in the district as well as representatives from Special the Education Parent Advisory Council and the English Learner community).

The survey lays out the two options for redistricting, and asks people to choose which option they support, and what considerations should be the most important, such as costs, busing, student age considerations, and frequency of school transitions for students.

In addition to the survey, district administrators have presented the options to all staff members at both middle schools and all of the elementary schools and collected both formal and informal feedback. District administrators have met with focus groups of students in grades 4 and 5 to gather their feedback as well.

At the School Committee meeting on Monday, Westfield Public Schools superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said the district will collate all the data they receive from the surveys for the June 19 decision meeting. The June 19 date was set in March when the School Committee voted to extend the lease at Russell Elementary for one more year.

“I think following through on making a decision on June 19th is very important. This decision impacts how the WPS (Westfield Public Schools) are configured and how instruction is given to our students. The School Committee understands the enormity of this decision and we will vote on the structure that we think will benefit students, teachers, parents, and the community the best,” School Committee vice-chair Cynthia Sullivan said.

A presentation on the two redistricting options is also available on the district website that lays out the reasons for the changes, and some of the pros and cons of each option.

Reconfiguration Presentation

For example in the area of school enrollments, two 5-8 middle schools with the same feeder schools would result in North Middle School with an enrollment of 897 and South Middle School with 746 students. Since NMS has a capacity of 850 students, Franklin Avenue would have to go to NMS, and Munger Hill to SMS to correct the enrollment numbers.

By creating one 5-6 intermediate school and one 7-8 middle school, the projected student enrollments would be 820 and 827 at the schools.

The presentation also states that in either configuration, students will be physically located in 5/6 and 7/8 arrangements, and students in grades 5 and 6 will follow a departmentalized approach, while students in grades 7 and 8 will follow a middle school teaming model.

One of the larger impacts of the decision will be on busing. For two 5-8 grade schools, no additional buses will be needed, the fifth grade walking distance will increase from 1.5 to 2 miles, and a later school ending time for elementary students is recommended. (The latter two impacts apply to both options.)

In the 5-6 school and 7-8 school model, five to six more buses and additional mini-vans will be needed, and the St. Mary’s schedule will need to change or the middle schools used as hubs.

Also laid out in the presentation are the impacts on the Special Services, Title I and English Learners programs.

“We will be sharing the results of the survey at the June 19 School Committee meeting. The School committee is expected to vote on an option that evening,” Czaporowski said, addng that the survey was posted yesterday on the district’s Facebook page and website only and already had 1010 responses as of 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

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