Proposal to combine schools rattles parents
In looking for a place to put the 60- to 70-student High School Extension Program, the school district has shaken up parents at two schools, with the likely result being a School Committee meeting tonight packed with people seeking answers and reassurance.
The proposals showed up Friday, in a letter to Superintendent Jeffrey Young from the district’s chief operating officer, James Maloney. Noting a decade of construction on the way and the need to find homes for pre-schoolers, the Amigos and Martin Luther King Jr. schools, a school for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, the high schoolers and some administrative offices, Maloney proposed six options.
The district is rebuilding schools and simultaneously putting into place a restructuring plan that creates four upper schools, resulting in significant reshuffling to be done before the plan, called the Innovation Agenda, launches next fall.
“We looked for solutions that would not require any single school or program to move multiple times over the course of several years,” Maloney said. “We wanted to develop one plan that would endure for the life of the major school renovations.”
The options that have provoked the most response are the first two of the six options: high schoolers moving to the Kennedy-Longfellow School, which will have K-5 students; or staying at the Upton Street building with administrators, resulting in the Amigos School moving to Kennedy Longfellow.
“No single plan is ever perfect,” he told Young.
But many parents feel he’s putting it lightly.
An online petition of the Kennedy-Longfellow community has drawn some 80 signatures, with parents such as Kathleen Kelley capuring a popular sentiment in saying “It is inappropriate to put high school students with elementary school students; especially troubled high school students.”
Two parents from Amigos, meanwhile, appeared Monday before the City Council and vowed to appear again before the committee to explain their position: “Our changing from Upton Street to the Kennedy-Longfellow building would harm, not benefit us,” said Kristine Jelstrup and Max Moore in a statement. At the very least, “If we have to change buildings now, hundreds of hours that our principal and school committee members have put into developing the building plans, parking and playground layout, recruitment and retention and after-school programs, all tailored to the Upon Street building, would be lost.”
“Adding Amigos to K-Lo doesn’t offer any apparent benefits to K-Lo,” they said. “Instead there will be two schools juggling the same resources. Amigos was at K-Lo previously and it was a struggle for both schools. There is no obvious synergy to such a move.”
Jelstrup was eager to see what officials said about the nearly eleventh-hour plan.
“This may be nothing at all,” she said, “and maybe it will go away tonight.”
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square.
This post was updated Dec. 7, 2011, to reflect Maloney describing the High School Extension Program as having 60 to 70 students.