BRISTOL - The Board of Education tabled for further review a study of how the cityâ€™s public schools could be reconfigured in the coming years.
The study recommended keeping Chippens Hill Middle School as the lone middle school, converting Northeast Middle School to pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, and eliminating two elementary schools.
The boardâ€™s operations committee proposed presenting the recommendation to the Board of Finance to be part of the cityâ€™s 10-year Capital Improvements Plan.
However, several members of the board, the public and school employees expressed concern about the effect of the plan on staffing, class sizes, school capacity, whether K-8 schools can create a sense of school community, and other issues.
Kaitlyn Williams, fourth-grade teacher at Edgewood Elementary School, said an elementary school allows teachers to get to know the kids long before they actually get them as students.
â€śI feel like I am able to be a better teacher because I have known these kids since they were little, and I was worried that in these bigger schools youâ€™re not getting that relationship,â€ť she said.
Peter Kelley, City Council liaison to the board, said he has spoken to a number of people about the issue â€śand I havenâ€™t heard one teacher or administrator that is really comfortable with the K-8 set up.â€ť
Board members Tina Taylor and Jennifer Dube defended the K-8 model, since they both have children who attend K-8 schools.
â€śI have two kids at West Bristol. I love the school, Iâ€™m proud that my kids go there, I love the staff, I love the administration,â€ť Dube said, while noting that she originally bought her house so her children could attend the old Jennings Elementary School and was upset when it closed.
â€śI do not think tonight we have enough information to vote upon any of these options,â€ť said board member Joseph Grabowski, proposing the study be referred back to the operations committee â€śto gather additional information about the effectiveness of the K-8 model upon student achievement data in Bristol and scholarly research.â€ť
In the end, all eight board members present voted to table the feasibility study.
Last spring the operations committee selected DRA Architects to do the study at a cost of $60,000. Also known as Drummey Rosane Anderson Inc., the architectural firm had performed the school districtâ€™s previous feasibility study about 10 years ago and also designed West Bristol K-8 School.
The study presents four options, all of which assume the city will be able to convert the old Memorial Boulevard School into a new arts magnet school for grades six through 12. The arts magnet school depends on the state coming through with a grant for renovations.
The study projects the arts magnet school would have an enrollment of about 525 students, averaging 75 per grade. Approximately 56 students each would be drawn from Chippens Hill, Northeast, West Bristol, and Greene-Hills K-8 School, and about 150 each from Bristol Central and Bristol Eastern high schools.
The studyâ€™s preferred option, known as Option 4, would mean the district would have three K-8s, one middle school, and four elementary schools, closing Edgewood and Stafford schools.
Option 4 was cited as the most cost efficient. It would require extensive renovations to Northeast, and South Side and Hubbell elementary schools, which would cost the city about $46.5 million, even with state reimbursements.
In contrast, making no changes to the current schools, which was Option 1, was estimated to cost the city about $58 million, even with state reimbursements, due to extensive renovations needed at Northeast, Edgewood, South Side, Stafford, and Hubbell.
Option 2 would convert Chippens Hill to a PreK-8 school, demolishing Northeast and building a new PreK-8 school on the Northeast site, and renovating Ivy Drive and Mountain View elementary schools into PreK-8 schools.
Option 3 would convert Chippens Hills to a PreK-8 school, replace Northeast with a new middle school building, and close South Side and Stafford elementary schools, leaving just four elementary schools - Edgewood, Hubbell, Ivy Drive and Mountain View.
The Board of Finance actually requested the feasibility study be done, to get an idea of what kind of work the schools need done, explained Superintendent Susan Moreau. â€śSo this was not the Board of Ed saying weâ€™re going to turn everything into a K-8.â€ť
Moreau said the operations committee meetings, like all the board committee meetings, are open to the public to come, ask questions and give their input.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.