After months of meetings, study and discussions, and several appeals to community members for their input, the redistricting plan was formulated by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Geoffrey Gordon. He stressed that he tried to make the plan beneficial to the children and to the taxpayers, and thanked all the staff, parents and taxpayers who participated in helping him create the plan.
Dr. Gordon pointed out that he designed the plan attempting to have the least number of students change schools, while also keeping class sizes at a desirable level - on a 19-20 student average for every elementary school.
In a power point presentation at the (well-attended) BOE meeting on Jan. 20, the superintendent outlined the primary variables that established the parameters for redistricting. These included:
- Size constraints, with the conclusion that purely neighborhood schools are not feasible.
- Safety and busing issues
- Economic diversity to ensure every school gains the benefits of Port's unique diverse richness.
- Financial impact
-Consideration of special students needs
-Physical analysis including furniture and equipment
-Traffic and parking patterns including safety concerns
He then presented the projected enrollments for the proposed reconfigured elementary schools, now five in number. He included the capacity number that was estimated in the bond issue for each school as it was presented to the community in the bond brochure in March 2001. Note: Daly and Guggenheim have 22 and 25 special ed. students, respectively.
Daly- 20 sections: class sizes ranging from l6.3 to 20.5
current enrollment-480; capacity-400; '04 enrollment projection-399
Guggenheim-25 sections; class sizes ranging from18.3 to 22.3
current enrollment-598; capacity-540; '04 enrollment projection-524
Manorhaven-25 sections; class sizes ranging from l7.8 to 20.4
current enrollment-566; capacity-440; '04 enrollment projection-470
Salem-16 sections; class sizes ranging from l8.8 to 22.3
no current enrollment; capacity-400; '04 enrollment projection-315
Sousa-29 sections; class sizes ranging from 18.8 to 22.8
current enrollment-614; capacity-600; '04 enrollment projection-577
Totals for all five elementary schools:
current enrollment- 2,258; capacity-2,380; '04 enrollment projection-2,285
On the whole, the plan was well-received. However, parents voiced some concerns, primarily centering around the disruption of established social relationships the students now enjoy and feel secure with at their current schools.
Noted too was the fact that in some homes, both parents work and have come to rely on other families in the schools their youngsters currently attend for things like after-school coverage, pick up, etc.
There are also some pockets of students, in the proposed plan, who will not be attending the same school as others in the "neighborhood" (i.e. Sands Point, Park section, Soundview). The superintendent pointed out that he tried to keep neighborhoods together, but with all of the competing factors, found this difficult.
Obviously, Dr. Gordon stressed, one of the main difficulties is a result of the fact that the district has four schools in the north part of town, and only one in the south (Salem). He did say at the meeting, however, that he will take a second look at these requests.
(At press time, we learned that Dr. Gordon had been able to incorporate some of the community input expressed at the meeting. Specifically, work done to further consolidate Soundview into one sending cachement (it was originally three reduced to two, and to consolidate the Shorewood neighborhood into one sending neighborhood as well.)
Commenting on the composition of the audience attending the meeting, former school board member Sandy Ehrlich noted that the minority groups in town were not well represented and said this concerned her. Dr. Gordon responded by saying that he believes the plan gives all groups an opportunity to do well.
Administration also has announced that individuals who have special requests regarding their child's placement will be able to file an appeal with Assistant Superintendent for Business Mary Callahan. She can be reached via e-mail @ firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 767-5000 and asking for her.