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Marshfield

Schools revisit plans to reassign

Deluged with parental objections to its original recommendations, a committee working on redistricting Marshfield’s elementary schools is considering new alternatives, school officials said last week.

Although she would not give details of the new options, Marti Morrison, who is chairwoman of the School Committee and cochairwoman of the redistricting group, said the alternatives would move fewer students but look similar to the two options that have been made public.

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The School Committee will present all the options Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at Martinson Elementary School.

Parents have questioned why the original options would move hundreds of students and involve four or five elementary schools, when only one school is overcrowded and one has extra space.

“ ‘Somebody must be moved’ is not a good enough explanation,” said parent Sue Molloy, who has a second-grader at Governor Winslow Elementary School, in a letter to the School Committee. “I want to know why my child is the somebody.”

The redistricting committee, which includes 15 parents, aims to relieve overcrowding at the South River Elementary School and use the extra space at Martinson Elementary School. But Morrison said the solution is not as simple as moving students from one school to the other, as some parents have suggested.

She said a linear migration from South River to Martinson would worsen transportation problems, such as long bus rides and inefficient bus routes.

The redistricting committee’s original recommendations entail moving students almost in a circular pattern across four elementary schools in Option A, or five elementary schools in Option B. Option A would leave Eames Way Elementary School unchanged.

Superintendent Scott Borstel has said Option B moves more students but meets more of the goals of redistricting.

In addition to solving space and transportation problems, the redistricting committee hoped to maintain equity in class size and student-teacher ratio, provide parity of space for special programs, offer all preschool in one building, and take into consideration the district’s long-term intention of expanding full-day kindergarten.

Parents have complained that minimizing the movement of children was not listed as one of seven priorities in the committee’s Dec. 10 slide presentation.

Thomas Miller, cochairman of the redistricting committee and director of business and finance for the Marshfield schools, said the committee now is trying to reduce the number of children who move by creating a “continuum of options” for the School Committee to consider.

“We need to weigh the movement of students against what is best for the district operationally, as a whole,” he said.

Jenny Coyle, a parent of children at Governor Winslow, said her Brant Rock neighborhood is being divided by the plans, which would send part of the neighborhood to Daniel Webster Elementary School.

She and her husband, Bill Coyle, and other Brant Rock parents produced one of several alternatives that have been proposed by parents. The Brant Rock parents propose moving all preschoolers to Martinson, but none of the older students out of Governor Winslow.

Asked if she views one school as superior to another, Coyle said no. “I’ve heard rumblings of that in town, but I don’t feel that way,” she said. The primary issue is one of disruption for the children, she said.

Coyle said she is hopeful the committee will settle on a plan that affects fewer children, but she is “giving them space” after providing the alternative proposal. She and her husband trust they will do what is right for the town, she said, adding, “We’re not angry.”

Greg Apostol, a parent of two children at Eames Way, said he is disappointed that the process has not been more transparent, but is pleased the committee is looking beyond Options A and B, “as long as they’re hearing what’s important to the consumers of education in the town.”

He has previously said Option B, which moves students from Eames Way, moves more students than necessary.

Morrison said parents’ desire to keep their children in their present schools reflects well on how the schools are doing.

“I’m not surprised by the outpouring, mostly because it’s a positive thing, but it’s been a difficult process for everyone involved,” she said.

Parent Erin Russo, an advocate of expanding full-day kindergarten, wants to see a more thorough consideration of kindergarten space in the redistricting.

Offering kindergartners a full day of school is about learning time, not just child care, she said.

But Miller said space isn’t the only barrier. Offering free full-day kindergarten to all would cost around $600,000, “which we can’t absorb in the current environment,” he said. Right now, Marshfield offers a full-day program by lottery, with tuition of $3,000 per student, he said.

A School Committee vote on redistricting was originally scheduled for Jan. 21. It has been delayed, probably until at least Feb. 25, Morrison said. The presentation Tuesday at Martinson is a special meeting for that purpose, and is scheduled to last only an hour, with no public participation, because a music program is slated to start immediately afterward, she said.

Morrison said the School Committee expects to deliberate at its regular meeting Feb. 11, and may finish deliberations and vote at its regular meeting Feb. 25.

Jennette Barnes can be reached at jennettebarnes@yahoo.com.
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