Based on the work of the Elementary Building Use Task Force, Superintendent Paul Stein is recommending to the School Committee that it move from the current K/1-5/1-5 elementary school configuration to a 2-3-4 K-5 model (2 classes for each of six grades at Loker, 3 at Happy Hollow, and 4 at Claypit Hill).

The Task Force recommended one of two models (but could not reach consensus on either): the 2-3-4 model and the "Lower Elementary" model, the latter of which would house grades K and 1 at Loker and grades 2-5 at both Happy Hollow and Claypit Hill. The final 12/16 presentation of the task force is available here.

At the School Committee budget forum last night (Monday, January 6), the Superintendent presented his recommended budget, which includes the 2-3-4 reconfiguration. The budget presentation is here; the full budget document is here.

It was interesting to hear last night's discussion on Superintendent Stein's recommendation. Some of the concerns raised had to do with having only 2 classes per grade at Loker: would education be short-changed in any way? In my opinion, this shouldn't be an issue relative to 3-3-3, as our administrators will do a great job ensuring equity.

Of course, there were the usual isolated calls to spend less, whether by avoiding the reconfiguration or not maintaining level services. It will be important for school supporters to make their voice heard at the polls and at Town Meeting. Note that it's not yet known whether the School Committee will approve the Superintendent's recommendation, nor whether the Finance Committee will approve only the guideline budget, the "Maintenance of Effort" level services budget that adds another $342k, or the "full" budget including the reconfiguration that's more than $1M over guideline.

I was a bit surprised not to hear another question raised, however: if we were to spend more than $500k on an ongoing basis on top of a $500k one-time capital charge, would there be a better place to spend it educationally? The reconfiguration won't reduce class sizes (not that reducing class sizes should necessarily be where we'd spend the money). It won't add programs. In short, it would be much more logistical than educational.

Without passing judgement on the relative merits of any of these ideas, shouldn't we at least be considering whether we might get more educational benefit from one or more of the following?
  • Full day Kindergarten
  • Foreign language at the elementary level
  • One-to-one learning at the middle and/or elementary levels
  • Expanded learning time
  • Expanded wellness
  • Other initiatives