Riley Home And School Questions Redistricting Plan

OSWEGO, NY – Parents and members of the Riley Elementary School had several questions regarding the district’s plan to redistrict its five elementary buildings.

Superintendent Bill Crist unveiled the plan recently to board of education members.

On Wednesday he began a series of presentations at the elementary schools.

He was asked how the plan was developed and what impact it would have on transportation.

Also is the district trying to place all the smart students in one building and could some current Oswego students wind up going to school in a neighboring district under this plan.

The proposal impacts about 283 students, the superintendent said, adding that is hundreds less than some previous plans in the past.

In the proposed boundary, Fitzhugh almost goes unchanged. The Riley school would actually become much more of a neighborhood school, Crist pointed out.

Redistricting isn’t a new topic; it looks at the issue of declining enrollment and changes in the population zones within the district, he noted.

The last time a full redistricting was done was in the early 1990s, he said.

“To better balance our schools, all five of our elementary schools, it is important for us to periodically look at where those population zone exist,” he explained. “We want to be able to provide the same opportunities for every child, no matter what elementary school they attend.”

The new boundaries would be “blurred or grayed” to allow for balancing of class sizes, the superintendent pointed out.

The families who live on the fringes of the new boundary lines may still be impacted, he said.

“This is not a perfect science,” he said of the plan adding that is why he is going to the schools to get input from the staff and families.

The possibility of closing a school as part of a redistricting plan is “off the table,” he added.

“What this does is allow for a pretty consistent balance of student populations and class size. It does not impact students who have special needs; it allows students with IEPs to remain in the buildings that they have,” Crist said. “There are still some students who may have special requests by way of childcare that will be addressed.”

Currently, there are elementary schools with around 330 students and those in the 500-student range.

The changes would mean the length of transportation time wouldbe at or below the current time, he said.

The desire to maintain neighborhood schools helped form this plan, the superintendent pointed out.

About 45 students who will be sixth graders in the 2012-13 school year will have the option to stay in their own building if they want to. However, siblings, in lower grades, within that same family would be transferred to the new building, Crist added.

The superintendent was asked what impact the move might have on the young students.

“Students are extremely resilient; children are extremely malleable. Our interest is to provide the very best opportunity for all children in the school district,” he replied. “Every student who goes thorough any of the elementary schools is going to be a Buccaneer when they walk into the middle school and they’re going to be a Buccaneer when they go into the high school.”

The transition will be a success, if the adults embrace it and allow it to happen, he added.

“The kids will be fine. The kids will meet new friends, they will have old friends. They will have experiences similar to but different than the experiences that they have had here (in their current school),” Crist said.

One parent wanted to know what happens after they are notified they will be changing schools.

Once they are notified they will be given an opportunity to visit the new school and meet with the principal and the teachers so there is a sense of a calm and not concern for the student, Crist explained.

In response to another question Crist said there are no plans to send any students to a neighboring district.

Will the change in bus route mean more time on the bus for elementary kids?

According to the superintendent, the priority is to minimize the amount of time students have to spend on the bus.

“We are looking at the most direct and efficient routes,” added Tom Gunn, transportation director.

One audience member questioned whether the district was just trying to collect the best and brightest students and place them in a “smart school.”

That definitely isn’t the case, Crist said. The proposal was formed by examining the population zones; there were safety issues and some other special factors (that would likely be looked at on a case by case basis) that were also taken into consideration, he added.

“The changes will likely have no significant impact on test scores for better or for worse,” Crist noted.

Will the proposal continue to be changed?

“We’re pretty sure this is the last scenario. That’s why were out here doing this to get your input,” Crist said. “We want your input. We want to hear what you have to say.”

After meeting with all the home and school groups, Crist will report back to the school board.