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Killam Parents Talk with Superintendent about Middle School Redistricting Proposal

Superintendent to recommend more study before School Committee vote.

A group of about 60 Killam Elementary School parents met with Superintendent John Doherty Tuesday night to discuss a proposed change to the district line for the Parker and Coolidge Middle Schools, which would send more students from Killam to Parker.

Some parents are unhappy with the proposal, which would affect “many Killam families,” according to one parent.

The proposal would move the Parker-Coolidge line north, from roughly Belmont Street and eastward to just south of Putnam Road (see map).

Killam graduates are divided when they move to middle school. This school year, 46 of last year’s Killam fifth graders moved to Parker; 41 to Coolidge, according to figures presented by Doherty last week to the School Committee.

Students from another local elementary school -- Birch Meadow -- are also divided between Coolidge and Parker. Eighteen students in the Birch Meadow Elementary School district who live in a small area between Lowell and Lincoln Streets, moved to Parker this school year, according to Doherty. Three-quarters of their classmates – 54 students – were assigned to Coolidge.

The proposal would send all Birch Meadow School graduates to Coolidge.

The School Committee had planned to vote on the redistricting proposal this coming Monday, Nov. 5.

However, Doherty will recommend that the committee table discussion on this issue until options are explored further, he told Patch yesterday.

The proposed redistricting at both elementary schools would balance sixth grade enrollment – and class sizes --at both middle schools, the superintendent told the School Committee.

Parents of some of the Birch Meadow students who are assigned to Parker told the School Committee this summer they were unhappy with the division of the Birch Meadow students.

Doherty presented figures to the School Committee showing how Killam students would be split between Coolidge and Parker for the next six years under both the current and the proposed district lines.

Maintaining traditional splits:

Year 13-14 14-15 15-16 16-17 17-18 18-19 Coolidge 29 34 26 36 29 30 Parker 43 50 38 46 42 43

With proposed new middle school district lines:

Year 13-14 14-15 15-16 16-17 17-18 18-19 Coolidge 23 19 21 21 20 18 Parker 49 65 43 65 51 55

The numbers in the charts are based on current enrollments in fifth grade through kindergarten town wide.

Parents of Killam students received a letter about the proposed redistricting Thursday.

The biggest concern from the audience Tuesday, Doherty told Patch, was that fewer Killam students would go to Coolidge under the new district line – a similar issue, but with “less dramatic” numbers in the Birch Meadow-to-Parker scenario. Transportation would also be a concern, he said. Bus rides would be needed for students on part of Haverhill Street and all of Timberneck Road, Richard Road, Tamarack, Pitman Drive and Varney Circle.

Tuesday’s meeting was closed to the media, Doherty told the Patch reporter who arrived for the meeting in the Killam cafeteria.  Describing the event as a community meeting, Doherty said he wanted to hear parents’ concerns.

The point of the meeting was to give Killam parents information about the proposal, Gina O’Connor, the Killam PTO secretary, told Patch Wednesday, and to “answer our questions.”

The meeting was “a success,” O’Connor said, because Doherty “listened to our point of view.”

Several parents reportedly presented different redistricting options.

Doherty gave the map of the proposed new school district lines, corrected since last week's School Committee meeting, to Patch Tuesday night.

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