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The Regional School District 13 Board of Education voted Tuesday to pursue a single approach to school programming, as its moves towards January’s final vote on the district’s future grade configuration.
In preparation of next month’s vote, the board released a final survey recently to give residents an opportunity to provide input on the final decision. The survey can be found on the Regional School District 13 website and will be available until the weekend before the regular Jan. 9 meeting.
The survey outlines two options, and asks – would you prefer one building track for all, with kindergarten through second grade in Brewster School and third through fifth grade in Memorial School; or two elementary schools, with grades kindergarten through fifth in both Brewster and Memorial schools.
In both options, Strong Middle School would remain the same, housing sixth through eighth grades, and Coginchaug Regional High School with ninth through twelfth grades. Neither option includes Lyman School, which was deemed the most logical choice to be closed due to the condition of the building.
Superintendent of School Kathryn Veronesi said the Strategic Visioning Committee – made up of school officials, teachers and community members –identified that it would be a benefit to students to all have the same opportunity for learning no matter what school they attend. One alternative would be having two elementary schools with different themed-strengths, such as one focused on music and the other on science.
If two elementary schools is the chosen option, the board would decide school assignment likely by geographic location, but is undecided on what the boundaries what be.
Finance Director Kim Neubig said based on information from the transportation company, a horizontal boundary makes the most sense as it would be easier to pick up students who live closer together and might allow elimination of a few buses, which would also save the district money.
The horizontal boundary would mean one school would be entirely Durham students, and the other mostly Middlefield students, with some Durham neighborhoods included to even out population size.
The board suggests a challenge of the two elementary school configuration would be that it might encourage an “us/we” divide, which was identified as a negative in community feedback during the committee’s process.
As outlined in the survey's attached flyer, the advantages of this option would mean one fewer building for students to have to transition through, potentially greater parent engagement, a broader age range in one school – which might enhance the learning experience – and broader possibilities for multi-age offerings.
The advantages named for the one building track for all option are efficiency of all grade and needs-appropriate resources in the same building, greater curricular consistency within grade, closest match of available space to class size recommendations, and a greater sense of community with all students together with all age peers.
One challenge identified in this option is that older role-models for students would not be in the same building.
The difference in building costs for each option is about $3.5 million, with the one building track for all estimated at $2.2 million and the two elementary schools estimated at $5.7 million.
Regardless of which configuration is chosen, the board voted Tuesday to continue with the pursuit of a single approach with the intent of including certain details such as single and mutli-age classrooms at the elementary level, assembly programs at the elementary level, looping options, adoption of democratic practices across all schools, a problem-based learning approach, and STEAM programming through the learning continuum. There would also be consideration for the creation of an RSD13 “HOT School” model at the elementary level.
The actual details for the single approach would be determined by developing a Portrait of the Graduate Guarantee. A professional who will assist the board with this process will give a presentation at the January regular meeting.
After the configuration vote in January, a bonding referendum on school renovations is expected in May and the tactical work to implement the new configuration would continue until August of 2020.