For better schools, vote no on 5
October 28, 2016 – Hampshire Gazette
My children attended day care together for one year. The single drop-off and pick-up made family life easier, and that brought our family closer. Their teachers made extra time and space for their interaction, and our little girl had a role model and the security of an older sibling.
Our older daughter started kindergarten this fall. If the plan for separate K-1 and 2-6 schools is approved, six years will pass before our daughters attend the same school again. When our younger one reaches kindergarten she may spend up to 30 minutes alone on a bus to Crocker Farm instead of 3 minutes going down the block with her sister. My older daughter will not be her reading buddy or role model. They won’t play together in the after school program. We lose two years of community and critical bonding, and many families will do the same.
But there are a number of other issues. The current plan nearly doubles cohort size, when studies of grade cohort size recommend fewer students per grade. The current plan also introduces a transition at age 7. Data show that transitions are difficult for all children, with less time per school robbing them of a sense of place. The effects of transitions and larger cohorts intensify for at-risk students, increasing achievement gaps and provoking disciplinary actions that disproportionally target minority students. Classroom community is part of the goal; involving the families is equally central to closing education gaps and improving education quality (NEA, ED.gov). Neighborhood schools facilitate involvement. Sadly, the prior ARPS Central Administration suffered from strained relationships with the community. An administration now in transition has an opportunity to mend those relationships and hand the new Superintendent a clean slate.
Amherst can change plans and still have state funding. In all three cases case where a town re-submitted a new proposal after the original proposal was voted down, the Massachusetts School Building Association funded proposals with a 2-3 year delay. A plan that costs the average homeowner an annual $300 while disregarding the best educational practices will ultimately cost far more than $67 million. The consolidated school plan may provide the quickest fix, but Amherst should not trade short-term gains at the cost of becoming the incoming parent’s second choice for the next 50 years.
Had we won the PVLSI lottery for our older daughter, my little one would have priority enrollment, both girls could share the drive together to a smaller school, have fewer transitions, and a strong sense of But we believe in public schools and the ARPS community that make our schools remarkable. Only prioritizing the best practices in education will stem the flow to private and charter schools. Better options solve Wildwood and Fort River’s problems without destroying K-6 schools.