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Reading School Committee Requests More Options for Middle School Redistricting

Superintendent recommends committee vote on Dec. 10.

It’s back to the drawing board for a proposal to change Reading middle school district lines for Killam and Birch Meadow Elementary School students.

Based on feedback that the School Committee and Supterintendent John Doherty received from parents of Killam students, the committee directed Doherty to develop more redistricting options.

The committee had considered a two-part redistricting proposal: sending all Birch Meadow students to the Coolidge Middle School, including the 7 to 13 students --12 to 19 percent of their class-- now districted to the Parker Middle School; and increasing the number of Killam students who are assigned to Parker by between five and 15 students each year, over the next six years, based on current enrollment. That change would reduce the percentage of Killam-to-Coolidge students from between 40 and 44 percent of their entire class to between 25 and 33 percent.

At the same time, the number of Killam-to-Parker students would rise by between 5 and 15 students. That would increase the percentage of each year’s Killam class headed to Parker from between 56 and 60 percent to between 67 and 75 percent, according to figures from Doherty.

The superintendent has proposed to develop more options and review them with elementary and middle school principals and get parents’ input on them until Nov. 27.

The new proposals could be presented at the Nov. 27 school committee meeting, Doherty suggested, with the opportunity for public feedback then. The committee could vote on middle school redistricting, he continued, on Dec. 10. The superintendent suggested that the committee resolve the redistricting issue before budget talk begins.

School Committee Chairman Karen Janowski wants to see “no stone unturned,” she told Doherty, in new middle school redistricting options.

Should the superintendent look to keep class sizes comparable between the two middle schools, the goal of the first redistricting proposal, Doherty asked Janowski.

Look at all options, she replied.

The superintendent offered a “caution” on class size. I don’t think you want one middle school with larger class sizes than the other, he said.

“Right,” Janowski said, nodding.

About 10 people attended the meeting for this agenda item.

Doherty met with 60-plus Killam parents last Tuesday, he wrote in a memo to the committee, “to discuss and answer questions” about the initial redistricting proposal.

One of the parents’ biggest concerns, according to Doherty, was “the social and emotional issues that would result from having only 18-23 students (23 percent to 33 percent) from Killam attending Coolidge each year.”

That was the same concern voiced this summer by some parents of Birch Meadow students who are assigned to Parker instead of Coolidge about the current middle school districts.

The original redistricting proposal would have redrawn middle school district lines so that a piece of the Birch Meadow school district between Lowell and Lincoln Streets would have moved from the Parker to the Coolidge district, along with the rest of the Birch Meadow class.

In the Killam district, the Coolidge-Parker line would have moved northward, roughly from Belmont Street to just south of Putnam Road.

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