By NICK GRABBE
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
AMHERST - The new plan to redraw the boundaries of elementary school districts faced its first criticism at Tuesday's School Committee meeting.
Parents and concerned citizens will be able to make additional comment on the plan at hearings Oct. 8 at Mark's Meadow School and Oct. 14 at Crocker Farm School, both at 7 p.m. The School Committee plans to vote on Oct. 27.
The redistricting is triggered by next year's closing of Mark's Meadow School. The School Committee also wants to equalize the percentage of students at each school who come from low-income households.
The map puts 100 more students in Crocker Farm by extending the northern border to Amity and Main streets, with the railroad tracks being the eastern border.
Children living north of Amity and Main and west of the tracks would attend Wildwood School, while those east of the tracks would go to Fort River School.
Only in the East Hadley Road area would children go to multiple schools.
The Boulders would be in the Wildwood district, Mill Valley Estates and Hollister Apartments in Fort River, and children in nearby single-family houses would attend Crocker Farm.
Jim Oldham, of East Hadley Road, said the plan should be postponed until a decision is made about whether sixth-graders will attend Amherst Regional Middle School, so that no students have to move twice.
He said some children living in apartments in his area would be separated from their friends and neighbors.
"You're using low-income families as justification for redistricting but burdening them with the biggest impact from it," he said.
Several speakers spoke about the impact of the redistricting on Spanish-speaking children currently attending Crocker Farm.
"I am here to put you on notice that I will do all in my power to prevent from going forward any districting proposal which targets for dispersal to other failing Amherst elementary schools the children of Spanish-speaking Crocker Farm families, their teachers and their educational support staff," said Vladimir Morales, a former School Committee member.
Zulma Rivera, a Mark's Meadow parent, said her group, Amherst Families for Two-Way Immersion, will submit an alternative redistricting proposal.
"The idea of redistricting the community of children we met at Crocker Farm is as harmful as what is planned for Mark's Meadow," she said.
"What you propose to cut is not fatty tissue; it is muscle and nerve that are deeply embedded in our community."
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.