LONGMEADOW – The district is examining the possibility of moving elementary students and preschool students to different schools within town as a part of its proposed redistricting plan beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.
Superintendent of Schools Marie Doyle told Reminder Publications approximately 75 students could be moved from Blueberry Hill Elementary School to Center Elementary School and about 50 preschoolers could also be redistricted from Center School to Wolf Swamp Road Elementary School.
Doyle said the committee is exploring redistricting because Blueberry Elementary has reached its maximum capacity.
“We realized that any further increases in enrollment would mean that we couldn’t fit the students into the Blueberry building appropriately,” she explained. “We already have special education teachers sharing classrooms, ELL [English language learners] teachers sharing spaces, so it’s a really good time for us to examine redistricting.”
Currently, Blueberry Hill School consists of 500 students, Center has 391 students, and Wolf Swamp has an enrollment of 353 students, Doyle noted.
“Based on a study of current enrollment and enrollment projections, this redistricting would balance all three elementary schools within two years, giving each school approximately 420 students,” she added.
The district has seen an increase in ELL and special education students and it is currently working on building “in house programs” to allow students to “remain in district rather than being transported to an out-of-district school,” Doyle said.
“We’ve built for programs at our elementary schools over the last five years and they’ve saved the district over $750,000,” she added.
The four programs focus on students with cognitive disabilities, learning disabilities, autism, and social and behavioral challenges, Doyle noted.
The Elementary Redistricting Committee would make a recommendation to the School Committee after its April 16 meeting, Doyle stated in a letter to parents on Feb. 25.
The Redistricting Committee initially began as the Enrollment Subcommittee, which met in October 2014 to examine current populations, census data, enrollment trends, and special education program placements, she stated.
The Enrollment Subcommittee was later expanded to form the Redistricting Committee, which consists of more than 20 parents and Longmeadow community members, Doyle added.
The list of potential streets where students will be moved from Blueberry Hill to Center School include Benedict Terrace, Birchwood Avenue, Converse Street (numbers 5 to 138), Davis Court, Edson Street, Fairmont Street, Fernleaf Avenue, Forest Glen Road, Hazelwood Avenue, Highland Street, Homecrest Street, Laurel Street (even numbers 32 to 256), Llewellyn Place, Llewellyn Street, Longmeadow Street (odd numbers 17 to 259), Roseland Terrace, South Park Avenue, Villa Street, Woodlawn Place, Farmington Avenue, and Ellington Street.
School Committee member Kimberly King said at the committee’s March 9 meeting that one option being considered is phased-in redistricting.
School Committee member John Fitzgerald said redistricting should take place this September.
“Previous committees have kicked this can down the road so many times that we’ve got a serious imbalance in our elementary schools,” he added. “To talk, right now, about not wanting to address this I think is the height of foolishness.”
School Committee Chair Janet Robinson told Reminder Publications the last time redistricting occurred was a decade ago, when students were moved from Center to Blueberry.
Doyle said another option would include “grandfathering” the rising fourth grade students at Blueberry Hill School, which would mean that they would stay at the school when the become fifth graders.
“The second option would be that students who are at Blueberry would stay there and that only new students would transition to Center School,” she added.
A third option would be to assign new students residing on “swing streets,” to either school the district feels is appropriate based on school capacities, she added.
Doyle said the Redistricting Committee’s recommendation could come before the School Committee sometime in May.
The Redistricting Committee is scheduled to meet March 31, April 14 for a public forum, and April 16 at Longmeadow High School at 7 p.m.
To contact the Elementary Redistricting Committee send any questions or inquiries to email@example.com.