Elementary schools may be closed in Western Mass

(c) Hilltown Families - Sanderson AcademyElementary schools may be closed
Thursday, December 14, 2006
By David Vallette (Source: The Republican)

(Buckland) – A committee report calls for closing three of the Mohawk Trail Regional School District’s four elementary schools…

…To deal with expected budget problems, the Interim Planning Committee calls for closing elementary schools in Heath, Colrain and Ashfield, and putting all elementary students into the sole remaining school, Buckland-Shelburne Elementary.

The phased closing would have one school closed in each of the next three years… (including) Sanderson Academy in Ashfield, which serves Ashfield and Plainfield…

Read the rest of this article…

3 Comments on “Elementary schools may be closed in Western Mass

  1. anyone have recommendations of a good elementary school in easthampton? Have 2 kids.. one going into first, one second. we are new to area

  2. Paper: Berkshire Eagle, The (Pittsfield, MA)
    Title: Revamp of schools goes ahead
    Date: January 20, 2007

    Saturday, January 20 DALTON — Now that residents have had their chance to weigh in, the School Committee of the Central Berkshire Regional School District is ready to take a hard look this week at potential plans to restructure operations and redistrict schools.

    More than 50 community members attended a public forum Wednesday night at Wahconah Regional High School.

    The Dalton Community Cable Association will air the presentation today and Saturday, Jan. 27, at 8 a.m. and at 5 p.m.

    A tape of the meeting also will be available in all the district’s seven town halls, and a DVD will be available in each of its schools.

    “We’re going to take our first real look at this, and the Restructuring Committee’s recommendations at our next meeting, and go from there,” said School Committee Chairwoman Susan Carroll-Lombardi at the meeting.

    The next School Committee meeting will be Thursday at 7 p.m. at Nessacus Regional Middle School.

    An ad hoc panel appointed by the School Committee has spent 18 months exploring ways to reduce costs and operate schools more efficiently.

    Using a detailed rating rubric, the Restructuring Committee whittled an initial list of 27 themes to four top-rated restructuring plans:

    Multiple grade splits, particularly at the elementary-grade level.

    Moving Craneville’s fifth grade to Nessacus Regional.

    Transporting students to the school closest to the child’s home.

    Moving all the district’s fifth-grade classes to Nessacus.

    Restructuring Committee Co-Chairman John Bantjes presented the four findings in detail, highlighting the pros and cons of each.

    Based on questions and remarks from members of the audience, the idea of moving fifth-graders to Nessacus was the least favored, with disadvantages including the loss of a playground, the possible need to add more supportive services staff and the mixing of the children with older students.

    “That option seems to have a zero sum gain, with the losers being the fifth-graders. There’s a huge disparity of maturity between fifth- and sixth-graders,” Stan Harvey of Dalton, parent of a fifth-grader, said.

    Other parents worried what would happen to students with special needs.

    “Services will follow them. Whatever their IEP (Individualized Education Program) requires, we will provide,” Harlan said.

    Kelly McIlquham of Dalton, a former student and employee of the district, reminded people that the options being considered are not unheard of.

    “A lot of the options have been done before. I was a fifth-grader at the middle school, and I loved it and the extra programs. It isn’t a new concept. As time changes, these things need to happen,” she said.

    Indeed, times have been changing with costs of utilities and insurance rising and school enrollments declining nationwide. Funding strains have ignited many sparked debates among schools, towns and the state.

    In response, the Restructuring Committee was prompted to examine issues such as enrollment figures, attrition and retention, building efficiency, quality and breadth of programs, and operational issues such as communications, transportation, special services and training.

    Some action already begun

    Action has been taken to address some of the issues, including partnering with the Massachusetts Community Partnerships for Children program to open two new preschools and using VersaTrans software to identify ways to consolidate bus routes.

    “Our school district is doing a great job. But I don’t really like any of these options,” said Hal Westwood, a Grade 4 teacher at Berkshire Trail Elementary School in Cummington.

    “There’s no good place to cut corners, and you can’t cut corners when you’re giving a good education,” he said.

    Harlan said that all feedback will be taken into consideration, and that, although the findings have been reported, the School Committee is not required to choose one solution.

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