At the September 29 Roundtable, Mrs. Carrion, Mr. Schweitzer and I discussed the many benefits to be realized from the proposed reorganization of schools. If the Board of Education gives their approval to proceed, students in Grades 4-8 will have significantly enhanced educational programs in a more age appropriate environment. These benefits will extend to the entire student body as curricula are amended to prepare younger students for the new upper elementary and middle school programs, and to enable high school students to build upon their educational experiences from the lower grades.
The response from the public, including over 100 parents at the Roundtable, to these proposed academic changes was extremely positive.
Several parents raised questions about transportation and the arrival and dismissal times for students if the schools reorganize. There were also questions about transition for students to a new school. We anticipated these questions and continue to research best practices through discussions with other districts and local agencies, including the Rutherford Police Department. I would like to offer some follow-up information regarding these concerns.
Several years ago, the Ramsey School District reorganized their schools to a configuration similar to what we are presenting. They created two K-3 schools, a grade 4-5 school, a grade 6-8 Middle School, and a 9-12 High School. The configuration met their needs and building sizes. Their motivation was similar to ours —improve the opportunity for students to explore, learn, and achieve. Prior to the reorganization they had three K-5 schools, one grade 6-8 middle schools, and a high school.
Ramsey faced the same concerns and addressed them through revised bell schedules, the implementation of a subscription-busing program, and transition programs for students. I have been in contact with Ramsey and other nearby districts to learn from their experiences in managing such change and to consider how to apply these and other solutions to Rutherford. These discussions are ongoing.
Additionally, we will be reviewing our before and after care program which is outsourced to the YMCA. This program has not operated the last few years in Pierrepont and Union due to low registration. Having all upper elementary students in one location may allow the program to run at Pierrepont.
The reorganization proposal will be presented at the October 5 work session for Board approval at its October 19 meeting. If it is approved at that time, the administration will begin immediately to put the plan into place for an effective date of September 2016. This implementation will entail further investigation of the issues raised the other night, as well as others, such as finalizing bell schedules and any impact of the proposed daily schedules on the staff, parking and traffic patterns and subscription busing.
The overriding merits of the proposal lie in the academic benefits for the student. While the concerns voiced about transportation and transition are valid and important, and will be addressed in due course, the academic benefits to be realized by all students justify moving forward with this reorganization, should the Board of Education approve the plan. As we work toward implementation, we will call upon all the resources at our disposal, including our colleagues in Ramsey and other districts, to ensure that all concerns are addressed to the best of our ability.
As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Superintendent of Schools