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 REDISTRICTING - LET'S DO IT RIGHT

1/5/00

Having taken a decision to open the Pasadena School in September, 2000, and having approved new attendance boundaries for each of the community’s schools, there are essentially two remaining questions to be decided by the Plainview-Old Bethpage Board of Education. Firstly, will children currently attending a particular school be allowed to remain there until graduation, or shall all children immediately attend school in accordance with the newly established attendance lines? Secondly, what will class size be in the newly re-zoned schools? The answers to both questions are closely related and oblige us to remember why it is that we are talking about opening a new school and redrawing the attendance boundaries.

Last year the Plainview-Old Bethpage community resoundingly approved a bond referendum to expand the physical capacity of our district to provide a quality educational program. A broad based coalition of community groups rallied to support continuing excellence. Our schools were crowded then, and there was good evidence that student enrollment would continue to grow as a result of new house construction and the turnover of existing housing. Class size throughout most of the district was higher than the late 60's and early 70's and many programs were forced to compete for space. High school scheduling was growing increasingly difficult owing to the use of almost every classroom every period of the instructional day. Enrollment at the Mattlin Middle School was significantly larger than that of Plainview Middle School with the result that the latter has been unable to fully implement the district’s team teaching program. The evidence was convincing that space had to be provided if the stature of our district was to be maintained.

It is essential, therefore, the POB Board of Education squarely face the instructional needs of the district and take the necessary policy and budgetary steps to reduce class size at our elementary and middle schools for next year. Failure to do so will call into question the wisdom of the community supported bond referendum and would belie the growing evidence that class size is directly related to student achievement.. There is a broad consensus in our community on the need to reduce class size, most recently evidenced by a report by a PTA Class Size Committee which found our class sizes relatively large compared to similar districts. To have less crowded buildings with the same large classes we currently have would be nothing short of a hoax on the taxpayers of our community.

Furthermore, the Board of Education must steel itself against a very vocal minority that would have us delay full implementation of the district’s reorganization to accommodate any number of selfish plans to permit children whose addresses have been re-zoned to continue to attend their current schools through graduation. Some of these so-called "grandparenting" plans would have us delay the full use of the Pasadena for several years, a frivolous waste of money and a significant delay in the improvement of the education of all of the elementary and middle school children. If we remind ourselves that we are reorganizing our schools to have the space to reduce class size and accommodate a richer academic program, the temporary discomfit that some children may experience changing schools sooner than they anticipated shrinks in comparison to the very real improvements to be experienced by all.

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