Redistricting Talk Focus Of Oswego School Board Meeting

By: Bill Foley, OCT Contributing Writer

OSWEGO, NY – Student redistricting has been a long-term concern for the Oswego City School District and administration is attempting to alleviate the massive differences between the elementary schools.

However, because one school possesses a state labeled “focus” title, the redistricting effort is a little more difficult.

The Oswego City School District board of education met on Monday evening at the Education Center and the primary item on the agenda was the prospect and desire of redistricting.

Superintendent of Schools Ben Halsey and Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Curriculum Dr. Dean Goewey provided a tentative plan for the members of the board.

Halsey said, ”We need to simplify and the idea is to find some balance to our buildings, create better routing efficiencies for transportation while having a minimal impact on students.”

Goewey presented the steps and considerations and  some new practices that could be put in place.

He echoed Halsey saying the goal was to “standardize elementary enrollment and reduce transportation costs.”

Currently, Kingford Park Elementary School has 481 students while Fitzhugh has 472 and they are followed by Charles E. Riley (462), Minetto (429) and Frederick Leighton (365).

Goewey explained there is a need to “look at current enrollment with higher versus lower enrollments while also looking at boundaries, routing and bus challenges.”

Impacting transportation are special programming, English as Second Language services and special programs.

However, 267 students have special permission for transportation and113 students are attending different schools other than home schools.

One proposed scenario would shift some students from the western edge of the district from Kingsford to Leighton, but this would not provide any relief to Fitzhugh Park.

A major hurdle is that Leighton is currently a focus school and due to state regulations, parents can opt to send students elsewhere.

“Currently, approximately 40 students’ parents have opted to go to another elementary school,” Halsey said.

District administration is hopeful that Leighton will be removed from the state “focus” list.

Goewey noted, “There has been growth and scores have gone up significantly. We are hopeful to be of the list in the Fall of 2015.”

There were some key aspects that need to fall into place to assist redistricting.

“We need to consider encouraging families who move within our district during the school year to move to their new home school, take a critical look at students that are currently attending a school other than their home schools due to the old special permission practices and move the bulk of our full day integrated co-taught classroom back to Minetto,” Goewey said.

Currently there are five integrated full day co-taught classrooms with three at Fitzhugh, one at Kingsford and another at Leighton. Goewey proposed moving all, but the Leighton students back to Minetto.

Previously the integrated programs were specifically at  Minetto, but this was changed by the previous special program director.

The possible redistricting plan would shift numbers and provide efficiencies.

Halsey indicated the goal is to have all schools  equally accepted by all famlies and that the five elementary schools would be considered no different from one another.

This proposal brings some balance and provides an opportunity to look at some programs that have been in place thus moving forward with further evaluation along the way.

Board member Sam Tripp addressed buses that weren’t full and wondered if the legislature had passed the law to allow parents to opt out of bus services.

Halsey indicated that there was requirement to provide a reasonable need of transportation.

Tripp noted that there might be a substantial savings in transportation if parents opted out and provided their own transportation for their children.