In addition to approving initial funding for seven modular classrooms, here are a few other items of note from Monday night's School Committee meeting.
1. Angier rebuilding project moves forward
The Newton School Committee took another step Monday night toward the construction of a new Angier Elementary School in Waban, a project the district is working on in partnership with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).
According to Deputy Superintendent/Chief Administrative Officer Sandy Guryan, people involved with the project have done some site visits at other recently built elementary schools in the area, which Guryan said has helped with visualizing new spaces, classroom sizes and proportions.
"[The project] continues to move along at a healthy pace," Guryan said.
The committee voted unanimously Monday night to approve . This is a basic template for the number of classrooms and the size of the facilities in the school.
Only a few small changes were made to the initial educational plan, Guryan said, and the MSBA may tweak a few details before giving it a final approval.
"We're really excited to see this project move forward," Committee Chair Claire Sokoloff said.
2. Concerns about certain buffer zones
During the public comment period, Cabot Elementary PTO members Lori Knowles and Heather Mehra voiced their concerns with a potential buffer zone change related to Cabot Elementary, as school officials have considered adjusting the buffer zone for Bigelow Middle School to deal with space strain in the middle schools next year.
According to Knowles and Mehra, Cabot is the only elementary school that has students split between two middle schools, one of which is Bigelow. The split is decided early on so students are aware of which middle school they will be attending and what friends they will stay with.
But changing the flow of students could bring added stress to families, Knowles and Mehra said.
"It’s a concern that a buffer zones would add additional anxiety to an already anxious situation," Knowles said.
The School Committee is still considering options and has not yet made a final decision on how to handle the needed space in the middle schools next year.
3. MCAS scores
Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Ann Koufman-Frederick presented Monday night the district's spring 2012 MCAS scores.
Koufman-Frederick highlighted five takeaways from the 2012 scores:
- Students consistently score above state averages
- Students perform at comparable or higher levels than similar districts
- Students' growth measure is high above the state average and peer districts
- Students perform well in early grades and scores steadily rise
- The district is beginning to see success in narrowing achievement gaps, especially in upper grades
Based on the MCAS scores and participation rates, schools and school districts are ranked Level 1-5. The level is based on the district's Cumulative Progress and Performance Index (PPI) score. Out of the 21 Newton Public Schools, nine schools are ranked at Level 2: Angier, Bowen, Franklin, Lincoln-Eliot, Memorial-Spaulding, Williams, Zervas, F.A. Day Middle and Oak Hill Middle. The rest are ranked at Level 1. Koufman-Frederick explained that a district is generally ranked based on the level of its lowest performing school (in this case, Level 2).
The nine schools that are at Level 2 are not meeting the target growth for "high needs subgroups," Koufman-Frederick said, which includes Hispanic, African American, low income and special education students.
According to Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Joe Russo, any school that is at Level 2 has developed a "targeted plan" that they have sent home to their school community.
or view the memo in the .pdf section above.
4. State budget cuts -- how will they affect Newton?
Last week, Gov. Deval Patrick announced a number measures to help close the state's budget gap, including cuts to local aid and some public school reimbursement.
During his report Monday night, Superintendent David Fleishman assured the community that Newton will not need to make any changes or adjustments to its budget as a result of the proposed cuts.
The proposed cuts included a supplement to the Circuit Breaker reimbursement and a reimbursement for homeless student transportation, two items that were not factored in to Newton's fiscal 2013 budget, Fleishman said.
5. Cabot is next
Now that the Angier Elementary rebuilding project is underway, the School Committee agreed to submit a new "statement of interest" letter to the Massachusetts School Building Authority that lists the school rebuilding/renovation projects the district would be interested in partnering with the State to build.
The top of the list and next in line: Cabot Elementary School.
Although the MSBA has shown some interest in helping rebuild Cabot, no official agreement is set. As part of the mayor's $11.4 million override package and March special election, residents will be asked to approve a debt exclusion for the rebuilding of Cabot.