GROTON — Switching the name to a less-contentious sounding “attendance area,” the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee voted unanimously last week to approve a reallocation plan for students that divides them between Florence Roche Elementary School and the Swallow Union Elementary School in Dunstable.
The reallocation plan was made necessary with the closing of the Prescott Elementary School, which will go “off line” in the 2009 school year. The plan is based on a series of recommendations made by school Superintendent Dr. Alan Genovese.
Among the recommendations of the reallocation plan, Genovese included:
* the geographic area of town that comprises the attendance area,
* the establishment of a special committee that would meet on an annual basis to review the allocation plan,
* and goals aimed at making sure there is a balance in grades between the two elementary schools and the maintenance of at least a 25-to-1 ratio between students and teachers.
Genovese outlined the process that he and other administrators including Swallow Union Principal Peter Myerson used in determining which students from which areas of town would attend either school. They studied bus routes and census figures that would shape school attendance for the next 3 years, in their deliberations.
“Not everyone is happy (about the plan) but everyone can live with it,” said Genovese.
The reallocation process has been controversial among parents unhappy with the closing of Prescott School and concerned about how decisions were made to take the school off line. Vocal parents are also cocnerned about where their children would eventually end up going to school.
One such parent attempted a final broadside against the administration by submitting a letter critical of the whole process and calling it “short-sighted” with “no vision for the future.”
In his letter, which he read to the School Committee just prior to the vote approving the reallocation plan, Watson Way resident Mark Mulligan said that some families in the attendance area are a “protected class.” He said their children are already attending Swallow Union and no suggestion was made that any of them be transferred to Florence Roche.
Mulligan, who is mulling whether to run for an open seat on the School Committee, accused the administration of dishonesty in formulating the reallocation plan. He said that belief only feeds into a “general feeling of hopelessness” in the community’s attitude toward the school system.
But fellow residents who had taken an active role in the formulation of the reallocation plan, took more understanding positions on the resultant attendance area.
Admitting that the reallocation plan as proposed was the “best of a bad decision,” Kristie Volante, a resident who had been a member of the Shared Designated Zone Committee, defended the administration’s efforts. She called only for a commitment by the School Committee that once assigned to a particular school, students be allowed to remain there until they move on to Middle School.
Committee member Frank O’Connell said accepting the superintendent’s recommendations would be like putting “a stake in the ground.” It would help satisfy the many parents who have been calling him, he said, and wondering where their children would be attending school next year.
In the end, School Committee members Chuck McKinney, Forrest Buzan, Cindy Barrett and Paul Funch joined O’Connell in approving the superintendent’s recommendation for an reallocation plan.
The approved plan would include the creation of a new attendance area. Children living on these streets will attend Swallow Union in Dunstable: Bridge Street, Brown Lane, Bryanwood, Charles Drive, Chicopee Row from No. 292 up, Fertiledale, Hawtree Way, High Oaks Path, Hoyts Wharf from No. 271 down, Island Pond Road, Kirk Farm Road, Longley Road from No. 471 up, McLains Woods Road, meadow view Road, Nashua Road, North Street, Northwoods, the upper half of Old Dunstable Road, Overlook Drive, Raddin Road, Reedy Meadow Road, Sawtell, Stonecleave Lane, Watson’s Way, Whispering Brook Road, Wildflower Lane, Wyman Road, and the upper half of Burntmeadow from No. 200 and up.