Thursday, April 14, 2016

School Consolidation? Park it

Kathy Mazur tells RSC it's back to the drawing board on school consolidation

The Amherst Regional School Committee heard a defeatist update from HR Director Kathy Mazur, who was charged with scoping out the merging of Middle School students into the High School building, which represented a complete turn around from her optimistic presentation back in late January projecting annual cost savings of $800,000.

The High School was expanded/renovated 20 years ago and has a current capacity of 1,700 while the projected population of both High School and Middle School grades 7-12 this coming September is only 1,340.

But Ms. Mazur said after viewing comments from over 960 individuals she has changed her mind:

"There are very few grades 7-12 schools in Mass with over 1,000 kids.   It's a LOT of students.  Our cafeteria is challenged now."

Mazur said there was "great interest" from a variety of groups in reusing the building, but the Region cannot make a profit by renting out space.

The Middle School is currently used by Greenfield Community College after regular school hours and the town's Leisure Services and Supplemental Education recently moved into an unused portion of the building.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

why, before even proposing the idea, didn't the Admin know this information and understand it (eg. few MS+HS>1000 and that the cafeteria access would be a problem)? Why would feedback from the community be required (as implied)? Those that think our community is too involved and provides too much feedback and criticism to the Admin, take note of this example. Sometimes the admin proposes (and makes) changes when it really doesn't understand the data or the consequences...

Anonymous said...

The first lunch could be scheduled as the buses arrive in the morning.
THose eligible for free breakfast and lunch could be served brunch.

Anonymous said...

So the administration responds to comments from the public in an affirmative way and the still get slammed. For the school administration in this town you're dammed if you listen to comments and those comments affect their decision making and their dammed if it appears they are not responding in the way commenters want them to respond. I don't know why anyone would want to work in school administration in this town. I guess you just have to ignore the noise and press forward with decisions you think are best for all the students.

Gordon Freed said...

What and when was the maximum number of students ever in the renovated high school. Did they ever starve?
What percent of the two schools stay empty now?

Anonymous said...

anon@1:20: this is the first poster again. My point is that the admin should have done their research before presenting their intentions to move the MS to the HS, this issue should/could have been a non-starter if they had. It should not have been the responsibility of the community to point out the flaws in the plan. It reinforces the impression (sometimes correct, as evidenced by this turnabout) that the Admin doesn't always perform due diligence before adopting a new program and other major changes. So don't try to turn this around to your narrative of 'poor administrators always getting dumped on'. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In this case the community played a critical role and the admin listened.

Anonymous said...

In so many ways: ouch.

Rich Morse

Larry Kelley said...

According to Mazur's January report:

"Regional enrollments have declined significantly, peaking at 2,068 in 2001-2002 and
anticipated to be under 1,300 in 2020."

Dr. Ed said...

Cafeteria was once able to feed X students (or at least did) when HS enrollment alone was X.

HS + MS combined is less than X -- yet cafeteria not big enough.

Well how was it big enough 15 years ago???? The room shrank?

Nina Koch said...

I'm not sure where they get the number 1700 as the capacity of the high school. When there were 1400 kids there, it was definitely very crowded. With 1700 kids, it would be very hard for people to move through the hallways and stairways between periods. The school would have to extend passing time, which reduces classroom time. Also, shared classroom usage would mean that teachers would have to be moving around a lot rather than teaching in the same room all day. That definitely affects the quality of education. There are a lot of important conversations that occur during the passing period--maybe a student is having trouble finishing an essay and wants to arrange for extra help from the teacher.

If the teacher is rushing through a crowded hall trying to get to the room for the next class, he or she is not going to be ready to start when the bell rings. You need to be there before the kids get there so that you can be logged in to the computer, have the projector on, agenda projected, homework posted on the side board, papers ready to be handed out, and so forth. You don't want to be losing 5 minutes at the beginning of each class while the teacher gets ready.

They also need to consider that there is a big difference between 1400 kids who are all high school students and 1400 kids who are a mixture of middle school and high school. My guess is that they would prioritize keeping the middle school students in a certain wing of the building and maintaining the team structure. This would mean more crowding in the other sections of the building. I think combining the two schools is a bad idea.

Rick Hood said...

I badly wanted to see the schools combined, to save the money, as we need to find savings someplace. Closing MM saved around $800,000 for the elementary schools. We need something on the large side like that for regional.

But I trust Nina's judgment a lot more than most, so looks like there may be too many issues.

Maybe there is an in-between where some of ARMS could be rented out to reduce costs, while not vacating it altogether. Which may be what Kathy Mazur was getting at during he meeting.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate it when people like Rick and Nina comment on this blog.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

If the HS has extra room with the continuing declining enrollment, maybe they could oould move the Southeast Campus students into an unused/underused part of the HS building. To me this makes more sense than moving the SE campus students into the MS building, especially since it appears the MS students will be staying there a while longer.

Nina Koch said...

Thanks, Rich -- and right back at you.

Anonymous said...

Why two teams -- why not just one?

Combining the middle & high school teams would get rid of the "us/them" schism between M&H, and there is a lot to be said for teachers teaching all six grades.
The number of teachers will eventually have to shrink and hence this sustains the team viability.

As to 1700 -- my guess is that it is based on the square footage of corridor space and the rest. As to MA High Schools over 1000 -- 1600-2000 student high schools were common in the 1970's. There aren't as many children anymore.

There will be less in the future...

Anonymous said...

Soooo..Why did the "School Nutz" soak us-our property taxes-for that "White Elephant" new high school yonder year ??/ Union shill disgruntled's ??I bet we haven't stopped paying for all that ??

Nina Koch said...

To 2:33 pm,

Teaching certificates are issued for grades 5-8 or 9-12 (in most fields). Many years ago, there were 7-12 licenses for secondary teachers, but that is no longer the case. So you would not have teachers teaching all six grades, nor should you in my view. Teaching middle school requires a special skill set.

Sckened by admin in Pelham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.