On Monday night, an open forum was held at Upper Nyack School to discuss the possible reconfiguration of the Nyack elementaries.
In an earlier Nyack Patch article, some background information was presented on the district's process up to this point.
The Nyack Board of Education is contemplating a shift to the Princeton Plan, which would divide the current K-through-fifth-grade experience into smaller segments across the elementary school buildings. Currently, the elementry schools are under the common neighborhood school plan, which uses geographic district lines to assign students to schools.
Under the Princeton Plan, grades would be assigned to specific schools. Instead of the three schools—Valley Cottage Elementary, Liberty Elementary and Upper Nyack Elementary—housing children from all grades, they would house children from just two grades.
- K-1: Valley Cottage Elementary
- 2-3: Liberty Elementary
- 4-5: Upper Nyack Elementary
More than 50 parents attended the forum, which was led by Superintendent James Montesano, Assistant Superintendent of Business Service Carleen Millsaps and Nyack Middle School principal Nicole Saieva.
Millsaps and Saieva were asked to co-chair a committee of parents and staff back in 2010. This advisory committee’s purpose was to address the “overcrowding conditions at Valley Cottage School," said Montesano. "There are times when we have difficulties in implementing things like instrumental music lessons because of our space limitations."
Nyack's Current SituationGrade Valley Cottage Liberty Upper Nyack Class Size Range K 63 74 54 16-22 1 49 82 92 16-22 2 72 73 66 17-22 3 75 67 61 18-25 4 77 69 66 19-26 5 87 91 74 21-25 Total 423 456 413
"In 2004, we changed the district boundaries (to shift some students to Valley Cottage) because Liberty Elementary was overcrowded," said Millsaps "As you can see from those numbers, that problem has gone away, but we have to keep a close eye on it and in the next couple of years, we may see the shift happen again."
2010-11 committee made the recommendation to change the boundaries and at that time there was no imputes to change the neighborhood school plan.
"However, we were once again faced with a new challenge, which is the tax cap."
Neighborhood vs Princeton Plan
"If you look at the district map, the concept of neighborhood schools in the Nyack community, it’s is really not nestled around your neighborhood streets. You have three slices of property. You do have students that travel quite a distance to get to their “neighborhood” schools," said Montesano.
He added that, to his understanding, the main reason behind the the district having neighborhood schools was "primarily for socio-economic balance that the district and the community wanted to experience over time.
"Also, what’s been happening from time to time and year to year, the boards of education have had to make (shifts) to boundaries to accommodate changing demographics. Last year, Valley Cottage had a very low kindergarten class. If that continues to happen, over time ... we’ll be at a point where we’ll have to make a shift to balance things out."
About the Princeton Plan
The name Princeton Plan comes from the Princeton School District in NJ that first implemented this change in 1948. “It was put into place for a socio-economic balance.”
Since then, in Rockland County, other school districts that operate under this plan include Nanuet, South Orangetown and North Rockland. In Westchester, there are 13 school districts that run under this method
One of the slides shown on Monday night was "Why do schools reconfigure their grade spans?"
- Philosophical preference
- Most efficient use of facilities
- Transportation costs — “In the case of Nyack, because you’re so spread apart … what we found in the study is that transportation costs aren’t really relevant in regards to travel time, although … there are some additional minutes for some students. With regards to cost, it does not seem to be an added cost,” said Montesano.
- Socio-economic balance
- Increasing student enrollment
- Personnel costs
“Usually, communities like their current structure, regardless whether it’s a neighborhood school or (one under the Princeton Plan). From a parental perspective, people want to keep what they have,” said Montesano. “I assume most of you are here because you don’t want to lose what you have with regards to what (your elementary) offers your children.”
Another slide from the meeting: What will impact our future situation?
- NY cap on tax levy
- Uncertain state and federal aid
- Demand for more rigorous curriculum
- Need for improving student achievements
- Need for increased professional development
“Schools today offer a lot more different services and programs,” said Montesano, adding that the schools' goals was to prepare students for success in college. "Parents are asking for language immersion and science in elementary schools."
A chart of the 5-year budget forecast was also one of the slides, which showed that expenses would increase much faster than revenue, which would leave the district to face a deficit and difficult financial decisions. This slide is one of the photos attached to this article.
"Over the next several years ... The board is going to look at several things—labor, contract negotiations, etc—in hopes of controlling costs. The board is going to be challenged not only to maintain programs, but we have a strong interest in advancing programs in this district," he added.
He said that there will be a meeting in December to "talk more extensively with the school board on where it chooses to go in regard to future plans for the school district."
- Liberty School Wednesday, October 3 7:30 PM
- Valley Cottage School Tuesday, October 9 7:30 PM
- Nyack Center Tuesday, October 30 7:30 PM