A day after thethat requires the schools find $80,000 in additional cuts, the School Committee decided to postpone moving third graders to Hanaford and Eldredge for one more year.
The panel voted 7-0 in favor of recommending the reconfiguration take place in September 2013 during a meeting Tuesday night in the library at Cole Middle School.
At issue was the $125,000 price tag associated with moving the grades from Meadowbrook and Frenchtown schools. That includes $75,000 for an additional special education teacher, $20,000 for a part-time speech/language specialist, $10,000 for moving costs, and $20,000 for classroom set-up.
Asst. Supt. Paula Dillon went into great detail Tuesday explaining why additional staffing would be needed even though the district would be teaching the same number of students. It all came down to special education and requirements built into the individualized education plans (IEPs) for each special education student.
“I looked at all the IEPs … this is what I need to service the kids,” said Dillon.
While the number of students remains static whether or not reconfiguration takes place, the time requirements change depending on where the students are, she said. Each special education teacher and therapy provider (i.e. speech, OT and PT) has a certain amount of time he or she must meet with a particular student built into the student's IEP. Add to that time to meet with other members of a student’s “team” and travel time between school buildings and, for this particular year anyway, current staffing would not suffice. (The number of special education students varies from year to year.)
“When I look at special ed, I have to look at six schools,” explained Dillon. “When I move 15 kids, I’m moving all of the services associated with those kids.”
That said, Dillon supports moving the third graders.
"I don’t think that it doesn’t make sense," she said. "It’s a matter of planning and budgeting."
"From a timing standpoint, I think it makes sense to put it as a first priority for the following year," said Supt. Victor Mercurio.
“I would have preferred to have done it this year, but with the fiscal realities it’s just not doable,” said Committeeman Bob Durant. He was a member of the panel that recommended moving the third graders up to Eldredge and Hanaford.
Durant said while delaying it one year would be all right programmatically, postponing it any further would not. In particular, he referred to the new testing program the district is switching to, which begins in third grade. The new tests (the PARCC) are taken on computer so, officials say, it makes sense to have test takers grouped in schools with the computers to support them.
Rhode Island switches to the new test in 2014.
Cheryl Osborne, a parent who attended the meeting Tuesday, said while the decision not to reconfiguration in September wouldn't affect her children, she thought some parents of current Meadowbrook second graders would not be happy with the committee's decision.
"There are going to be some parents who will be upset because they want their kids out of Meadowbrook," she said. , with some construction perhaps to take place after school hours and during vacations next school year.