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Princeton Plan Effects on Busing, Costs, Education

The next public meeting on the reconfiguration plan is at Liberty School Wednesday, October 3 at 7:30 p.m.

 

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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 and a closer look at the Princeton plan.

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 elementary 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. 

Originally, the committee looked at changing the district boundaries as a temporary fix, as the district had done in 2004. However, with the introduction of the tax cap, the committee needed to look at more long-term options that could benefit the district in the long run.

In this Patch article, the breakdown of the committee's research will be presented according to Monday night's meeting. 

The committee was broken up into sub groups with specific tasks:

  • Room Usage & Facilities
  • Instructional advantages and disadvantages
  • Transportation and other economic considerations

Enrollment data was reviewed by the committee as a whole. The committee also looked at flexible attendance zones and policy 5110—flexibility once new registrations exceed pre-determined class sizes (Grades K-2 @ 23; Grade 3 @ 25; Grades 4-5 @ 27)

“We have not had to use (this policy). (If) over the summer when kids come in and register last minute and we see we have an overcrowding issue, this policy allows us to move those children to another school that would have enough room to accommodate them and not have to (create an addition to a school for the extra students),” said Millsaps.

“These are all things that are projected. Nothing is set in stone,” said Saieva.

Room Usage & Facilities

Here are the max classroom sizes that Millsaps went over:

  • Grade K -1: 23 students
  • Grade 2:  23 students
  • Grade 3: 25 students
  • Grades 4-5: 27 students

 

  • “Valley Cottage would house K-1 because it had smaller classrooms and … there would be a surplus of two rooms.“
  • “Liberty Elementary … would be better to house grades 2-3 because those classrooms are slightly larger and the incoming second graders would be able to stay in classrooms of 23 students and third graders would move into classrooms that are slightly larger. There would be a surplus of three rooms”
  • Upper Nyack Elementary would have grades 4-5. “The main reason was that the school was on Broadway and it would keep the younger students off of the main road. The older students are a little more equipped to handle (traffic). They would end up with a surplus of four rooms.”

“We talked about bringing special education back into the district so that the district could really accommodate their own students,” said Millsaps. She added that administration could fill some of the classrooms also.

Instructional Advantages and Disadvantages

  • “We can really target professional advantages and … get teachers to really hone in on certain grades and the curriculum for those grades,” said Saieva. “Everyone in that building becomes specialists for those grades. Teachers work across the grades horizontally and vertically.”
  • Saieva added that they would need to look at communication lines between Grades 1 and 2 and between Grades 3 and 4 because of the separate buildings.
  • “(The Princeton Plan) would eliminate the social adjustments at the middle school level. When you have the three elementary schools coming together for the first time, we have orientation and we try to make the transition as smooth as possible, but it’s an adjustment period. This way, all the students will know each other when they enter the building in Kindergarten and move on from one grade to the next.”
  • Services and state assessment instruction can be grade specific
  • Building activities—assemblies, author visits, cultural programs—will be more suitable for 2-grade buildings.

Transportation

  • Some students may ride the bus 10-15 minutes longer
  • Will be able to eliminated one small bus although one large school bus would be added
  • Decrease in Special Education transportation costs

Economic Savings

  • The conservative estimated cost savings for the district is $700,000 - $1 million.
  • “Reduction of 8-9 teaching staff on the elementary level because you would have all (same grade level) teachers in one building so it’s be much easier to maintain class size configurations rather than ending up with some classes being very small in one building and others very large in another building,” said Millsaps.
  • Room to create in-district special education programs and savings on special education tuition and transportation
  • Professional and curriculum Development savings by having teachers hone in on one or two grade levels.
  • Field Trips
  • Software/hardware savings—licensing won’t need to be done at three different schools
  • Staff travel time, efficiency and mileage

Economic Costs

  • Costs to staff in-house special education programs
  • Will be able to eliminated one small bus although one large school bus would be added
  • Additional teaching coverage to cover lunch and recess periods

Other Items

Here are a few other items that would need consideration if the Princeton Plan is used:

  • Stagger start/end dismissal times—“High school would start 10 minutes earlier, middle school starting time would be about the same, two elementary schools would start at the same time and the third would be pushed back a couple of minutes,“ said Saieva
  • Orchestra and Band would be housed in one building
  • Placement of teachers/TA and other staff assignments
  • Parent/community communication, School calendar
  • Student orientation program

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Meeting dates

  • 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

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Patch Articles

Elementary Parents Oppose Princeton Plan

Nyack Elementaries: Neighborhood vs Princeton Plan

Revamp Nyack Elem. Schools? Meeting Tonight

Michael Zaretsky October 03, 2012 at 10:43 AM
Still feel this is a bad idea!! Kids and parents will have to adjust to a new school and administration every 2 years - these transitions are very disruptive to kids and families lives. And frankly the idea if starting the high school 10 minutes earlier is ridiculous ! These teens can barely function - research shows that high schoolers do better with more sleep - so why not give them even less now - now that is stupid!!
jane Barch October 03, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Could not agree more with Michael. A bit of history - Nyack once had 4 transitions when grades 5 and 6 were housed at the Hilltop School. Once argument for the current configuration, developed after much community input during the building campaign for the new high school, was that students were asked to make too many changes. Principals had less impact on a temporary student population, and students never develop a comfort level at any one building. While Nyack cannot ignore the needs of its special education students, one fears that once again, the regular students are getting squeezed. Think again and revisit earlier decisioins for precedents before makiing such a major impact on our District.
Kim Tran (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Check back with Nyack Patch at 4:30 today for the last post from this meeting. It'll go over parent concerns that were brought up
Kaete Nazaroff October 03, 2012 at 06:04 PM
There is a Facebook page set up as forum for those against this plan. Find it at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Princeton-Plan-in-Nyack-Elementary-Schools/514121715281779

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