More Middle School Redistricting Options for Reading; Superintendent Recommends No Change or Original Option
School Committee to decide Dec. 10 or 17.
After developing and reviewing a total of nine redistricting options, Supterintendent John Doherty recommended Monday that the Reading School Committee either maintain the current district lines or tweak the lines for Birch Meadow and Killam students, as he had proposed last month.
Eleven people spoke at Monday’s meeting, some emotionally, about the issues they said their child faces as one of a small group of students assigned to Parker or Coolidge while a larger group of their Killam or Birch Meadow peers heads to the other middle school.
Parents want to know -- some even before their children enter elementary school -- where the children will go to middle school, according to one parent in the audience.
One mother of a Birch Meadow student said she is concerned about the safety of children walking across town to Parker.
Any redistricting has to minimize the impact on students, the budget and staff and programs, the superintendent said. Programs at one middle school cannot just be moved, he said, to the other one, without repercussions, such as teacher seniority.
A small group of Birch Meadow students in one pocket of the Birch Meadow school district – an average of 9 to 13 over the last couple of years, according to Doherty – are assigned to Parker while most go to Coolidge.
If students in that area were redistricted to Coolidge, the number of Killam-to-Parker students should increase, Doherty said, by roughly the same number, to maintain comparable class sizes at the two middle schools. Killam is the only other school whose students are split between Parker and Coolidge.
So the superintendent proposed to move the Killam-to-Parker district line slightly north. That would reduce the number of Killam students going to Coolidge.
Killam parents were unhappy with that proposal.
The School Committee directed Doherty to look at other redistricting options.
Whatever the School Committee decides, everyone will not be happy, Doherty said Monday.
Since the Title I program ended at Parker three years ago, middle school choice also ended, Doherty told the audience of about three dozen people.
Parker Middle School can accommodate 600 students, Doherty said; Coolidge, between 450 and 460 pupils.
Administrators from Parker, Coolidge, Killam and Birch Meadow proposed to better prepare the fifth graders from those two elementary schools who are moving up to middle school by focusing on the transition overall, rather than who’s going where and setting up supports, like student mentors at the middle schools from the entering students’ elementary school and talking to parents.
The School Committee plans to vote on middle school redistricting on either Dec. 10 or 17, committee chairman Karen Janowski told Patch.
One factor to consider in redistricting now, Doherty said, is that it may happen all over again in two to three years. The School Committee wants to offer all-day kindergarten, now an option, to all students. More space would be needed to house them. Space at all of the town’s five elementary schools is at a premium, according to recent committee discussions, because of growing and new programs, not growing enrollment.
The last middle school redistricting occurred in 1995, Doherty said, before the Wood End elementary school came on line.