Shuffling students between Manchester schools meets with opposition
However, these changes, presented by Superintendent Thomas Brennan at public forums last week, will depend on several variables, including the willingness of the Board of School Committee to establish a central preschool facility.
Another component of the redistricting plan is to develop a "feeder" system so that each of the four middle schools are attended by students from the same cluster of elementary schools. Currently on the east side, some elementary schools send students to all four of the middle schools. This proposal would not take effect until 2014, at the earliest.
The most immediate part of the plan - to take effect in the fall - involves moving up to 294 students on the east side and another 66 on the West Side. The reassignments are meant to even out the building capacity in the schools, which varies considerably. The plan would shift blocks of certain streets or entire subdivisions that Brennan has referred to as "attendance islands" to a neighboring school zone.
East side plan
Brennan's proposals are available on the district website: www.mansd.org.
Brennan has stressed that the reassignments are not set in stone. They will depend both on the board's position on a central preschool facility and an examination of the 1,200 students that now go to schools outside their attendance zone.
At the urging of some parents, Brennan is undertaking the analysis of the 1,200 students this week. Brennan said he believed most of the students had a hardship or special education plan that merited their attendance of schools outside their zone. "But if someone was allowed to go to another school for no reason, I think we should identify those kids and move them," he said.
Doing so could free up capacity in some of the schools and eliminate the need to move students street by street.
A central preschool could also eliminate the need for many of the school reassignments, since it would free up considerable space in three of the four elementary schools where preschool programs are held. Jewett Street Elementary has been mentioned as a possible site for a central facility, although converting and operating the space would likely come at a significant expense for the cash-strapped district.
"There's going to have to be a new principal, and the electricity, heat; it's going to cost a lot of money for an operating budget," Ward 9 school board member Art Beaudry said.
Beaudry is also critical of the plan for a middle school feeder system. He said that the proposal, by shifting most of the students at inner city elementary schools to Southside, would contribute to segregation.
"Southside would be 70 percent minority, and McLaughlin would be 70 percent caucasian," he said.
At-large school board member Kathy Staub said any student reassignments should be weighed carefully.
"Schools aren't just warehouses; they're communities. If you're going to move a student from one place to another, there has to be a good reason, and it has to do with improving the delivery of educational services."
Similar views were expressed by parents at the public meetings last week.
"My granddaughter was like, 'I'm going to lose all my friends and teachers,'" said one of the people who attended the forum at Southside Middle School Thursday. "I don't want her with inner city kids who seem to have potty mouths."
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