Citizens For A Better Norwood

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Part III: NCS Downsizing K-6, Grade-Specific Buildings Option

Filed by Lisa Bauer

To readers: This blog outlines the second of two options Superintendent Steve Collier is currently asking Norwood citizens to consider for downsizing schools (See Tuesday’s Part II: K-8 Option 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 another plan for making the Norwood City Schools’ use of its buildings more efficient is to designate four elementary buildings to house specific grades for Norwood students. In this plan, grades would be divided between the buildings in this way:

1. Pre-K and Kindergarten,
2. Grades 1 and 2,
3. Grades 3 and 4, and
4. Grades 5 and 6.

Collier said that with this plan, students would all continue to walk to their neighborhood schools daily. However, he said, children who are students in grades that are not housed in their neighborhood school would be bused from that school to where their classroom are located.

“Nothing changes,” he said. “You still would walk to your old neighborhood school and we’d take you to your new school…we don’t want students to be in any danger of walking.”

Collier said that if this downsizing option is chosen, two buses would run loops between schools before and after school. Based on current costs the school district pays for the limited school bus transportation needed under the current system, he estimates the new system would cost “ballpark figure” around $60,000 annually. He added that under the new system, parents would also be allowed to provide transportation to their children if they wish. “Everybody will get two years (as students) in their neighborhood schools,” he said.

Collier said that according to many studies, having students attend grade-specific buildings benefits children. Also, children are attending school with other students their age and developmental level, which can cut down on behavior issues. Because all the teachers in one grade for the district can work together in teams, he said, test scores have the potential to go up. He added that Norwood district personnel have been visiting other school systems in the area using grade-specific buildings and have seen positive things. “Educationally, it’s sound,” he said.

Fiscally, grade-specific schools also offer some advantages over neighborhood schools, Collier added. Because all students in one grade are attending one school, the district can often hire fewer teachers to serve them because class sizes can be better consolidated. Grade-specific schools also allow school districts to spend less money on materials such as library books and computer programs since all the students who need them at a certain level would tend to be in the same building. For the Norwood district, he added, less money would have to be spent on retrofitting schools than if it changed its elementary schools to K-8.

Collier said the biggest disadvantage to making Norwood elementary schools grade-specific would be that students would no longer spend all their K-6 years in a neighborhood school close to home. Another important disadvantage would be the cost of busing elementary students to school each day.

Collier emphasized that the school district is not committed to one plan for downsizing the schools at this time and that community input is very important. He said the major issue for school district personnel is to be financially responsible to the community at a time when enrollment in Norwood schools continues to dwindle.

“We’ve made cuts. We’re going to run out of money,” he said. “I want to show options and get feedback.”