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Newton School Committee Approves New Buffer Zones, Budget Add-Backs

The buffer zones will help reduce the growing population at the district's largest elementary school

The School Committee tonight voted unanimously (8-0) in favor of implementing to help reduce the population at Countryside Elementary School.

Those incoming kindergarten students in the Countryside community who fall within the buffer zones will be asked to attend another elementary school in the district starting this coming fall. As presented to School Committee last week, the proposed buffer zones were originally set to send students to ,  or  Elementary School, depending on where the student lives. 

Russo noted that the School Department will not be breaking up families who may have siblings already at Countryside. 

However, Assistant Superintendent Joe Russo came back tonight with an update, noting that the new Zervas buffer zone had been reduced and instead, the space incorporated into the Angier buffer zone to prevent too much "dividing up" of the Upper Falls village.

The Countryside Task Force, which was formed to brainstorm and discuss ways to help the growing school, also recommended around $32,000 in additional staffing costs to help with the large population. 

"I am incredibly impressed by the process that has gone on here," said committee member Margie Ross Decter. 

Prior to the discussion, several parents stood up in favor of the buffer zones, but urged the committee to consider different, long-term solutions to help with space needs and growing populations while maintaining a sense of community in the schools.  

The committee tonight also voted 8-0 to add back $250,000 into the fiscal 2012 budget. The add-backs include a librarian, a 0.6 full-time equivalent teacher at Ward Elementary as well as 15 minutes of additional music time to accommodate cuts to recorder and chorus.

The additional money, the administration clarified, is expected come from increased state funding through Chapter 70 and Circuit Breaker reimbursement. If that money does not come through, the committee agreed that it should come from elsewhere int he budget, as Superintendent David Fleishman emphasized the add-backs were necessary to "help schools function."

Stay tuned to Newton Patch for the full story. 

Clarification: The Zervas buffer zone change was made after concerns over dividing Upper Falls into three elementary schools and two middle schools (according to a memo from Russo to the School Committee.)

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