Citizens For A Better Norwood

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Part II: NCS Downsizing K-8 Option

Filed by Lisa Bauer

To readers: This blog outlines the first of two options Superintendent Steve Collier is currently asking Norwood citizens to consider for downsizing schools (See yesterday‘s Part I below.) CBN readers are encouraged to post their input on this blog in the comments box. It is another way for citizens to give school district administrators and the school board members feedback on how to address the declining enrollment in Norwood City School District.

Superintendent Steve Collier said that one plan for making the Norwood City Schools’ use of its buildings more efficient is to designate four buildings to house students in grades K-8. If that is the downsizing plan that is adopted, he said, the Middle School, “which can hold easily 800 kids,” would be used as a K-8 building along with three other existing elementary schools.

In this plan, Collier explained, Norwood elementary school students would be divided as follows:

1. Around 550 in a "large attendance area" would be assigned to the Middle school.
2. Other students in smaller attendance areas would be divided into three other existing elementary buildings that would serve 300 to 400 students per building.

Further, Collier said, in the K-8 building plan, there would be no intradistrict enrollment, meaning that students would be required to attend elementary school wherever the district assigns them. "You may live close to View and have to go to the Middle Schools," Collier emphasized.

Collier said that advantages to this option include the ability to keep neighborhood schools intact, even though district lines for attendance would have to be redrawn. Collier said he suspected that since the community is used to neighborhood schools, it may be more comfortable with this solution. In addition, he said, Norwood would not have to bus students, which could cost the district thousands of dollars. He gave a “ballpark figure” of around $60,000 per year for bus service expenses, although he said the district has not asked bus companies for estimates yet.

Collier said a disadvantage of the K-8 building solution is the costs of refitting the Middle School to accommodate small children. Another concern he mentioned included having small children on a school campus that would be housing grades K-12, since the High School is connected with the Middle School and the two buildings share a schoolyard, auditoriums, and a cafeteria.

Other questions Collier raised about this solution included where and how to distribute the books in the Middle School library if they had to be divided between four elementary schools and how to handle the lunch schedule for elementary students attending the former Middle School. It would be impossible, he said, for the High School cafeteria, which currently serves both the Middle and High Schools, to schedule serving lunch to students in grades K-12.

Along with the logistical problems of converting the Middle School building, Collier added that if the district goes from K-6 elementary schools to K-8 elementary schools, there would be several disadvantages for students in grades 7 and 8. They included:

1. Loss of opportunity for Middle School students to take algebra classes for high school credit and foreign language classes, since the district couldn't afford to assign teachers of these subjects to each K-8 building,
2. Loss of extracurricular opportunities, since the district cannot afford to have teams for each elementary building (although Collier said that it might be possible to figure out some solution for dropping students off at one locations),
3. And, no band or orchestra at the Middle School as it would be impossible to schedule existing teachers to travel to four different buildings to work with seventh and eighth graders.

Finally, Collier said that using this plan, all elementary students would lose computer labs at school because all the rooms would be needed for classrooms.

Collier emphasized that he is not invested in either plan for downsizing the district. He and the School Board, he said, are committed to using community feedback to see what Norwood

The other downsizing solution, grade-specific buildings, will be explained Thursday in Part III of this series.