With a growing student population and fewer classroom spaces available at Bigelow Middle School, the Newton School Committee approved last night a measure that will send all Cabot Elementary School students to F.A. Day Middle School.
"Next year, if we continue our current enrollment patterns, we do not have enough space at Bigelow," Newton Superintendent David Fleishman said at last night's Newton School Committee meeting.
Currently, fifth graders leaving Cabot Elementary are split between F.A. Day and Bigelow, the city's two north side middle schools. Those two middle schools then feed into Newton North High School.
According to Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Cynthia Bergan, this year's fifth grade class has 1021 students, with many other "big classes" coming through the system in the next few years.
"We really felt we had to look out over several years and not just make a recommendation for one year," Bergan said.
Initially, Newton administrators proposed adjusting the buffer zone for Cabot's district, which would add more students to F.A. Day, but still keep Cabot's graduates split between the two middle schools.
However, Bergan said both the School Committee and .
Cabot is the only elementary school that splits its graduates between two middle schools, Bergan said, and many of the Cabot students know early on in elementary school which middle school they will be going to.
After hearing the concerns, Bergan said the administrators reconsidered options and determined that with six new classrooms added to F.A. Day next year, the school would be able to accommodate all the Cabot students.
The district is currently expanding F.A. Day to include added cafeteria and administration space along with the six new classrooms. The construction is expected to be finished this fall.
The shift of all Cabot students into F.A. Day will result in a 30- to 35-student increase per year over the current projections, Bergan said.
To view how the student population and team sizes will change with the added students, view the .pdf above.
Although the numbers appeared to work out for the shift to F.A. Day, Bergan said the committee will need to review Newton's out-of-district policy to ensure equity for all students and families at Cabot.
In addition, administrators still need to answer questions on how to handle siblings, and whether they will be grandfathered in to attending Bigelow Middle School if that is where their brother/sister already goes.
Nevertheless, Bergan said the issue of siblings is not likely to make a large enough difference for the district to reconsider its current plan for Cabot.
The School Committee approved the recommendation for the shift 6-0-1, with Ward 1 committee member Geoff Epstein abstaining.
The committee noted in its approval that the Cabot/F.A. Day shift will go through pending approval of the mayor's proposed $11.4 million override, which will be decided in a March 12, 2013 special election. Without the override money, the committee will need to reconsider many staffing and classroom adjustments throughout the district, committee members said.
"If the override doesn't pass, we're going to need to revisit [the Cabot/F.A. Day policy]," School Committee Chair Claire Sokoloff said.
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