This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Press Finally Reports on 5th Grade Plan

Today's Salem News belatedly reports on the plan to move 5th graders to the middle school. The front-page story doesn't add much in the way of new details to what has been reported on this site (see previous 5 posts), or the summary that was posted earlier this week on the district website, but it explains some of what the administration says are the academic and structural benefits of the plan to the community at large.
[Superintendent] Galinski said several Massachusetts school districts have a grade five-to-eight middle school configuration, including Swampscott. She said the move would allow for "more appropriate social/emotional programming" for fifth-graders as they enter puberty, and for sixth-graders to be paired with fifth-graders who are more like them.

"Sixth-graders are not like seventh- and eighth-graders," she said.

School Committee Vice President Maria Decker, who chaired the committee that recommended the proposal, said the change has many advantages, including allowing fifth-graders to participate in extracurricular activities like band and chorus and providing them with daily science instruction.

The move would also free up space at the elementary schools, which Galinski said are "bursting at the seams." That would create room for the expansion of special education programs and allow some students to stay in Beverly rather than being sent to more costly out-of-district programs, she said.

"We'd have to build the building bigger (to accommodate fifth-graders), but in general there would be cost savings if we could bring students back from special education placements," Galinski said.
The plan also has an unlikely supporter in George Binns, a vocal critic of recent city and school district policies including the new high school:
"To my thinking, fifth-graders would do better with subject-oriented teachers than with the generalists you tend to have in the elementary schools,"
Binns, a former teacher and school committee member, served on the subcommittee that drew up the plan.

The story also discusses the other controversial recommendation in the original facilities report—the conversion of Hannah School to an Early Childhood Center (ECC)—but repeats the administration's earlier assurances that this part of the plan is not currently being considered "at this point":
The facilities committee has also recommended turning Hannah School into an early childhood center for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes and redistricting elementary students among the four remaining elementary schools. But Galinski said only the middle school proposal is being considered at this point.

"There are many concerns around closing elementary schools," she said. "That's not even a discussion item right now. We do need a middle school. That's the most imminent project."
Aside from the concerns about the rushed process that we have covered ad nauseam over the last couple weeks, the most often expressed concern we have heard within the community centers around busing of 5th graders with 7th and 8th graders.

There will be a community meeting December 7th at 7:00pm in the Briscoe cafeteria, and the school committee now plans to vote on the plan a week later.

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