School Committee Reaffirms Stand on Districting

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Meeting for the final time before Monday's Special Town Meeting, the School Committee once more emphatically stated their case for moving to a neighborhood school model.

During the televised March 17'th meeting, individual committee members talked about the history of the process, transparency in arriving at the decision, and the research that went into the decision to move towards district shools.

Sitting behind 5-inch thick binders containing the feasibility study and meeting notes on the proposed elementary school, Rebecca Robak, Chairman of both the Elementary School Building Committee and the School Committee, asked the audience to think about their vote and to try to remove the emotional content.

“ Let's be careful when we make our decision," said Robak.“Be thoughtful.”

Committee member Jean Bertschmann reflected on the committee's role.

“It's important to be clear," said Bertschmann. "We're elected to do this. Our responsibility is to think about the 3,400 kids in the district. It took 8 to 10 years to accomplish these two goals, with a grant in sight. We want people to understand the parameters of our involvement.”

Looking at the statewide numbers regarding districting, School Superintendent Jack Phelan said the analysis shows the most effective path is to move to the longer grade span.

“We looked at 37 communities with grade spans of 4 or more years” said Phelan. “ The highest performing schools are districted schools. There's no variability in them. We've done our homework, we've tried to be transparent, that's always been our goal.”

Committee member Richard du Mont also commented, “Everything points to this being the right solution.

Whether you're in favor of districting or not, it's almost certain to become a reality in Hopkinton according to Robak who addressed the opposition to the new school project and districting head on.

“It's not going away,” said Robak. "Even if the new school is voted down, we will move to some form of districting."

Ironically, a vote to halt the Fruit Street Elementary School project may actually hasten the implementation of the district model. Without the need to wait for the opening of a new elementary school, there's no need to delay the process, according to the committee. The perceived linkage between the new school vote and the implementation of a district plan does not exist.

Commenting on the prospect of an unfavorable school vote, committee member Troy Mick said “What is the next best alternative for implementing longer grade spans? That will be quite a discussion”.