Acting on a recommendation from Superintendent William McAlduff Jr., the Winchester School Committee on Tuesday evening agreed to shelve a divisive proposal that would shuffle the town’s elementary school students between schools and instead hire an outside consultant to review kindergarten enrollment projections, a necessary step as the district prepares to craft a new redistricting plan.
In a telephone interview on Thursday, McAlduff said the review is necessary because he has grown “less confident” in the methodology used to determine how kindergarten students would be distributed among the town’s five elementary schools under a redistricting proposal. An advisory committee had considered 30 different models before recommending the plan that McAlduff embraced and presented last month to the School Committee.
McAlduff said he would suggest a revised plan for redrawing neighborhood school boundary lines once the review is completed and capacity issues are resolved. He said he would like the School Committee to adopt a redistricting plan no later than Nov. 1.
Originally, the School Committee intended to have a plan in place by the start of the summer break. However, that timeline changed as questions were raised about the superintendent’s redistricting proposal, which called for as many as 112 students to be transferred to new schools in 2013, when the town’s new Vinson-Owen school is expected to open.
In some cases, the shift in boundaries would have forced students accustomed to walking half a mile to their neighborhood school to ride the bus or be driven to a different school nearly 2 miles away. Some parents said the plan failed to consider the socio-economic implications of moving students, such as the effect that changes in enrollment would have on a school’s access to parent volunteers and PTO funding. Others said the plan would not move enough students to address enrollment issues over the long term.
McAlduff said he would suggest a revised plan for redrawing neighborhood school boundary lines once the review is completed and capacity issues are resolved.
Winchester’s Financing Committee and School Committee member Christian Nixon also questioned the capacity figures, saying the plan overstated the enrollment capacities of the Lincoln and Muraco schools in future years.
The School Committee is expected to continue discussing the capacity issues at its next public meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Lynch School library. Meanwhile, McAlduff is drafting a letter that will be mailed this summer to Winchester residents, notifying them that the redistricting has been delayed. The School Committee must approve the letter before it is distributed; the panel is expected to review it Tuesday. For the latest information about redistricting, visit www.winchesterredistricting.com.