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School Committee to have final say on redistricting May 11

Date: 5/7/2015

LONGMEADOW – The Elementary School Redistricting Subcommittee voted at its April 29 meeting to recommend Plan A to the School Committee, which would entail redistricting approximately 70 students from Blueberry Hill School to Center School.

The motion passed with seven votes in favor to one against with seven abstentions.

The School Committee is anticipated to take a final vote on the redistricting issue during its May 11 meeting.

Plan A would also grandfather rising fifth graders at Blueberry Hill School.

The planned neighborhood in Plan A is located in a rectangular area, the borders of which are Forest Glen Road to the north, Farmington Avenue to the south, Laurel Street to the east, and Route 5 to the west.

Currently, there are 391 students enrolled at Center School and 500 students at Blueberry Hill, based on data projections from April 28. Eleven kindergarten students, 10 first graders, 16 Grade 2 students, 13 third graders, and 18 grade 4 students would be moved from Blueberry Hill School to Center.

Superintendent of Schools Marie Doyle presented data from parent response regarding redistricting.

“There were 31 respondents out of 61 requests,” she added. “There were 61 families that represented 82 students that are potentially impacted in Plan A in current grades K-4. Two parents said, ‘Yes,’ they would move their children to Blueberry, while the other 35 said they would not move voluntarily.”

Doyle also spoke about redistricting in regards to the fiscal year 2016 (FY16) school budget.

“Currently in this school year we have 60.5 [section] classrooms in our elementary schools,” she added. “That includes the 17 that are at Wolf Swamp. Project sections are 58.5 and that’s at all three schools.”

The budget reflects “two teachers at Blueberry that would be moved when redistricting occurred,” Doyle explained.

There are 4.7 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff cuts in the budget that represent projections made by the district in January, she said.

Two grade 1 teachers at Blueberry Hill are cut in the FY16 budget due to a “reduction in population,” Doyle said. However, if redistricting were approved they would be moved to Center School.

“When we looked at redistricting, we thought we’d need 58.5 sections,” she added. “We left the two positions in Blueberry anticipating they would move to Center. So we did think about that when we created it.”

Thomas Mazza, the assistant superintendent for finance, “didn’t move the positions to Center, he left them in the Blueberry line items,” Doyle noted.  

The FY16 budget also reflects 0.7 FTE reading specialists that would be cut in addition to a 1.0 FTE kindergarten teacher at Wolf Swamp School “based on enrollment” and 1.0 FTE math coach due to the district’s plans to realign math services, she explained.

Center School Principal Donna Hutton presented a timeline and plans to welcome Blueberry Hill students to their new school if the School Committee passes the plan.

“First of all, for our students, [there are] some very specific plans,” she explained. “We are going to send a welcome letter to incoming students. It will be mailed May 13.”

Hutton said she would visit Blueberry Hill with “welcome gift” during the week of May 11 and 28.

“Students would be bused to Center and there would be welcome activities and a picnic on the green on May 29,” she added. “Students would receive letters from Center School pen pals. We’re going to try to make sure that their pen pal is from their grade level so that they can have some ongoing correspondence and play dates before school begins.

“We will have our adjustment counselors from both Blueberry Hill and Center as needed and that would be teacher and parent referral and that will be ongoing throughout the entire transition period and also in through next year if needed,” she continued.

A virtual tour of Center School would also be shared with Blueberry Hill students prior to May 29, she noted.

“We would like parents to receive placement input letters on May 22 and have them returned to us as soon as possible,” Hutton added. “There will be a parent welcome meet and greet, a building tour, and a question and answer with me and with Center School staff on June 3 at 6:30 p.m.”