Current enrollment projections indicate that by the 2014-2015 school year, middle schools should be able to return to their 2008-2009 attendance zones, according to a presentation by Superintendent Margaret Dolan at last night’s Westfield Board of Education meeting.
The current attendance zones affecting the district’s middle schools have been effective in alleviating the effects of larger class sizes, Dolan said during a presentation of a demographic report to the Board on behalf of its Long Range Planning Committee. The zones had been adjusted in 2009 – through a form of redistricting –to account for a bulge in student enrollment in certain elementary school grades, with the tentative plan to have the adjustments in effect for five years.
The redistricting policy has to be approved each year by the Board, which last night approved the measure for the 2012-2013 school year by a 4-3 vote. Board members Ginny Leiz, Ann Cary, Rosanne Kurstedt and Gretchan Ohlig voted to approve the measure. Meanwhile, President Richard Mattessich, Vice President David Finn and Mitch Slater voted against continuing the redistricting.
The announcement regarding a planned return to 2008-2009 attendance zones in 2014 was the highlight of Dolan’s presentation, drawing applause from a number of concerned parents in attendance. Several parents addressed the Board later in the meeting, emphasizing the stress that the educational uncertainty places on their children and pressing the Board for a guarantee that the redistricting will in fact end in 2014. Dolan and other Board members reiterated that the plans for 2014 are based merely on projections, but barring major population changes in specific grades, the return to 2008-2009 zones should occur.
Dolan’s presentation was based on a five-year projection study conducted by Ross Haber Associates, which included analysis of the district’s enrollment history and facility charts as well as census information. The study concluded that redistricting on the elementary level would not solve any space issues since each school is or will be fully utilized within the next five years. Dolan also said that while there is no immediate possibility for a full-day kindergarten in the district, she has asked the Long Range Planning Committee to look into what the district could do to address that issue. Additionally, Dolan noted that despite an increase in high school enrollment (1,782 in 2006-2007 to a projected 1,967 in 2016-2017), the 2003 addition to the high school should be able to accommodate the anticipated growth.