Doubts school district's readiness for change
To the Editor:
The closing of John Pettibone School is about a lot more than enrollment numbers.
The redistricting plan requires the physical move of classrooms and supplies for 1,000-plus students, almost one quarter of our school district's student population, to new buildings, and major shifts in curricula and schedules for students and teachers.
I am unclear how the Board of Education and the school system plans to address the following:
1) How will the new teacher certification (K-6 or 7-12) impact our sixth grade? Will Schaghticoke Middle School faculty need to be recertified? Will this incur a cost to the school district?
2) Why, when we are told repeatedly how much extra space there is in the three elementary schools, should we have a "tight" school at the middle school level?
3) Next year's sixth-graders will be assimilated into the rigorous schedule and course structure of SMS, without the benefit of the current sixth grade structure at Sarah Noble Intermediate School. How will this impact our students? Their test scores? Our funding?
4) How will the SMS lunch schedule be affected? Is there enough space? Time? Staff?
5) Will the music program continue to receive adequate support? Will sixth-graders have instrument lessons? Will they be in the SMS band and chorus? Is there adequate faculty and space to provide this, which is currently offered at SNIS?
6) How will SMS handle physical education and intramural sports for sixth-graders?
7) If sixth-graders will be integrated into the SMS schedule, why has there been no provision for foreign language instruction?
8) How will SMS handle the additional special education and guidance needs of next year's sixth-graders? This class has a higher than average number of students who need para-educators, one-on-ones, or other accommodations. Have arrangements been made for additional guidance faculty to be available at SMS?
9) When and how will teachers pack and move? During school hours, while our kids watch movies or do busywork? Over the summer? Will our teachers be paid for the extra work hours? Will substitute teachers be hired while the regular teachers pack? How much will all of this cost?
10) How and when will the library media centers at several schools be reorganized? Has the district budgeted for this reorganization project (staffing as well as materials)? How might this reorganization impact the use of these libraries in the spring of 2015?
11) Are the lockers at SMS in good repair and of good size for sixth-graders? How will lockers be used by sixth-graders?
12) Will there be additional parking at SMS to handle extra students and staff? We also see the need for a safe crosswalk across Hipp Road between SMS and Northville Elementary School.
13) Given how unsmooth class and teacher assignments went this August, can we expect earlier notification of teacher assignments next fall?
14) Will there be a more organized orientation at SMS this year? Will teachers be on hand for this?
15) When will school start next fall? When will that decision be made? What impact might a change in the start date have on teacher contracts, the end of the school year, and the budget?
16) How will JPS be decommissioned? How much will that cost? How will that be budgeted -- school or town? Are these costs reflected in the projected $650,000 "savings" for next year? Will the JPS playground still be available for our children to play on?
17) What about universal pre-kindergarten? The country is moving to adopting universal pre-K. What impact will closing JPS have on our ability to adequately serve a larger population of 3- and 4-year old students?
Is there time to adequately address these issues (and others I'm sure I've overlooked) before next September?
I question the scope, pace and timing of change, which may not serve our students well. I ask for a more measured pace, which will save time and money in the long run.