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School Committee to discuss middle school redistricting on June 8

Date: 5/28/2015

LONGMEADOW – A presentation detailing proposed redistricting of middle school students during the 2015-2016 will be on the School Committee’s agenda for its June 8 meeting.

Superintendent of Schools Marie Doyle told Reminder Publications no plan to redistrict middle school students has been approved at this point.

“I’ve met with the principals [and] we’ve looked at enrollment data,” she added. “So, we’ll be doing a presentation for School Committee and School Committee can determine whether or not they feel that they need to look at this.”

When asked about how the middle school redistricting process would differ from the process of the recently approved elementary school redistricting, Doyle said, “I’ll make sure I’ll talk about it at every meeting, so that people know what’s going on.

“I think that people want us to be transparent and to know what we are thinking, not just at the meeting,” she continued. “I’ll be repeating things several times for people to be aware of what’s going on in the district.”

Doyle said the district knew that Blueberry Hill Elementary School needed to be redistricted, however during the redistricting process, the question about middle school redistricting was raised.

“The enrollment data right now does not indicate that we have to do middle school redistricting because it’s balanced with the way we assign our staff and if you were to move more students over to Glenbrook [Middle School] it would disrupt the team model,” she added.

The School Committee will have a “full report” on enrollment data and Williams Middle School Principal Christopher Collins would also speak before the committee about this issue.

“Now that we’ve resolved the elementary question, we can take time to examine the middle school question thoroughly,” she noted.

Doyle said she’ll be asking the School Committee about a possible timeline for middle school redistricting if they choose to pursue the issue.

The district is also facing an allegation of civil rights abuse at Blueberry Hill School stemming from overcrowding of staff. There are four special education teachers working in one room designed for students with hearing impairments, Doyle said.

One of the solutions to this problem is the recently approved elementary school redistricting, which will reduce the number of special education teachers in the room, she added.

If the state visits Blueberry Hill and finds the room to be inadequate, special education students would be moved to a different classroom, she noted.

“[Elementary school] redistricting will definitely help because it means that we have flexibility in space that we didn’t have before,” Doyle said.

She added that if the state supports the allegation, the district would have one year to rectify the situation. After that time, the state would send officials for a site visit to determine what kind of changes were made to solve the problem.

This isn’t the first time the district has faced allegations of civil rights violations, Doyle said.

In 2007, Longmeadow High School was cited due to special education classrooms being “clustered” and not integrated throughout the building.

“When we designed the new high school, we made sure that students in special education classes were spread out,” she added. “We also, in the old high school, moved the special education classes to distribute them throughout the building.”

In 2013, Glenbrook Middle School’s life skills program was separated from the main body of students and the district was cited for this as well.

“We moved the classroom again to be in the center, the hub of activity, with all the students and that took care of that,” she noted.

The district has also been creating in-house programs for special education students and has saved approximately $700,000 since it began these initiatives five years ago, Doyle said.

“We’re working with parents right now to bring more students back into the district programs that we’ve developed,” she added.  

Doyle said the district is looking to continue expand its special education programs by potentially hiring additional staff.