Oswego District Redistricting Plan To Start This Fall

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego City School District will put a plan into motion this fall to balance elementary class sizes and save money on the process.

Elementary school redistricting is well under way, district officials said Thursday afternoon.

“As part of the just completed lengthy budget process, there were guidelines put in place for minimum and maximum class sizes,” Superintendent Bill Crist pointed out. “For elementary, the minimum for grades K-2 is 20 with a maximum of 22. For grades 3-6, it is 23 – 25.”

The district will have a dozen less elementary classrooms next school year; with a corresponding reduction (11) in elementary teaching staff.

Due to this reduction, it is necessary to redistribute those students who live on the fringes of attendance and transportation zones, the superintendent explained.

It does save some money in that the district has a reduction of 12 classrooms, Crist said. It is in response not only to the declining enrollment, but also the school board’s desire to provide a more efficient model for delivering elementary services, he added.

“As a result of this cost-saving scenario, students who live on the fringe of our present elementary boundaries will move to other elementary schools next year,” he said. “This will help balance those class sizes.”

In subsequent years, there may be a “more involved redistricting,” he added. That, he admits, might involve repurposing a school and displacing its population.

The superintendent stressed that the plan isn’t designed to tear apart families.

“We will absolutely try to keep families together. Families with multiple children at different grade levels are a priority. We will try to keep those students in the same school. But, we can’t guarantee this,” he pointed out.

They also took into account how best to accommodate students with IEPs (Individual Education Program), so they could remain in a particular building.

Currently, the plan affects 50 to 55 students at the elementary level. Most of the impact will be at Kingsford, Riley and Minetto elementary schools, according to the superintendent.

Crist said letters will be sent out next week to all parents of elementary school age children explaining the plans for next year. The district will follow up by sending out specific letters to the families that are impacted by the plan, he added.

“We believe (the moves) will be final, once we make that determination,” Crist said. “Will there be exceptions to that? I can’t tell you at this time. We work in a human business and as a result of that there is always some grey area there.”

Circumstances that present themselves after the decision has been made will be considered, he said.

“We’re looking at this likely as a one-year change; and intermediate adjustment to a longer term solution. We’re working to retain a consultant to look at a more formal redistricting plan, more comprehensive,” Crist said. “It could include repurposing or closing a school.”

There has been a tremendous amount of work to move the redistricting process forward, according to Cathy Chamberlain, assistant superintendent of instruction and curriculum.

She has met many times, for several hours each time, with the team of elementary principals to confront the redistricting process.

“It has been an arduous task that is very complex,” she said. “We were careful in this process and made decisions with the least disruption when considering the least from what grade levels and buildings students needed to be moved from.”

The redistricting group worked cooperatively with Tom Gunn, transportation director, to make decisions as to which students would actually be shifted to another (elementary) school.

“We worked with transportation to identify the students who were closest to the boundaries,” Chamberlain explained. “We tried to avoid moving students who have siblings in a building and considered the services for our special needs population.”

The plan would mean “slightly longer” bus runs for some students. It would be, on average, about 4 to 5 minutes, the superintendent said.

“There will be a little bit of blending in some transportation and attendance areas,” Crist said. “This process will help balance class size district wide at the elementary school level.”