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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wednesday Community Meeting on Middle School

Reminder to all parents that there will be a community meeting tomorrow night in the Briscoe cafeteria to discuss the proposed new middle school, specifically the plan to make the new school a grades 5-8 model, rather than the current 6-8. The meeting starts at 7:00 pm.

Those of you who follow this website regularly know most of the details of the plan, (see previous six posts) but it is still news to much of the community. To bring everyone else up to speed, the proposal originally grew out of last year's facilities subcommittee, part of the administration's Strategic Planning Committee.
The report, which was completed last spring recommends the following middle school structure:

The proposed long-term solution is based on where we as a district want to go, with a solid foundation in educational principles. The school committee and administration support the following:
  • One grade 5-8 middle school at expanded, updated Memorial, subdivided into a Lower Middle School of 2-person teams for grades 5 and 6, and an Upper Middle School of 4-person teams for grades 7 and 8.
It was put on the front burner in the past month, as the district began working toward a January deadline to submit a Statement of Interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for funding assistance on the new school. In order to complete the proposal, the district needs to know the approximate size and structure of the school.

When it appeared that the School Committee planned to vote on the plan last month, before it was ever reported in the press or widely known in the community, we were able to persuade them to put off the vote for a few weeks in order to hold this community meeting.

There are two documents that give more details of the plan.  The most recent is the officially released  summary of the plan that the district put out two weeks ago. This summary outlines the proposed school structure, and details the rationale and benefits of the plan.

A second more detailed document is the original facilities report. While we were given this report by the School Committee, it has not been officially released by the district, in part because it contains other recommendations, such as the conversion of Hannah School to a Pre-K and Kindergarten school.  The committee and administration have stated that this part of the recommendation is not being considered "at this time."

But this document also details six other structures that were considered before deciding on this one, as well as presenting many more details of the research behind the proposal. We feel it is important information for the public to have in analyzing the proposal.

When the concept of a 5th grade at the middle school was included in last year's survey, less than 40% of the public supported the idea. While we believe that result was largely because the concept was new, and presented with little context, the result underscores how important it is for the public to fully understand, and ask questions about the plan.

While none of these changes are expected to happen for at least five years, parents of current upper elementary and middle school students are in a unique position to offer their persective on how they believe their children, who are that age now, would adapt to such a plan. And parents whose children are just starting their elementary years could be the first group to attend the new school.

If you are in either of these groups, please try to attend Wednesday's meeting.

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