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Wayland Schools Chief Issues Elementary School Recommendation

More details on the plan will be presented on Dec. 16.

The Loker School
The Loker School
Wayland Public School's Superintendent Paul Stein is recommending the K-5 elementary school grade reconfiguration including a measure to keep enrollment even at the three schools. 

Under the plan introduced in a community wide email from Stein, Claypitt Hill School will have four classrooms for each grade, Happy Hollow school would have three classrooms per grade and the Loker School would have two classrooms per grade.

Stein is also recommending this year's fourth graders remain at their current schools next year as the district transitions to its new plan. 

Also, the plan includes the implementation of "buffer zones," designed to keep enrollment at the three schools even to avoid overcrowding in the buildings, according to the school use report. 

"A buffer zone is usually defined as an area for which individual addresses may be assigned to one of two elementary schools. Parents and guardians of students residing in a buffer zone would request either one of the two designated elementary schools in the zone," the report reads. "The requests would then be granted based on space availability. Students in these zones do not have a designated home school until such time as they are assigned a school," the report reads."

The report estimates the cost of the new configuration would be $594,645.

In the report, Stein cites maintaining a sense of community and improved transportation system for students as just two of the reasons for his recommendation.

Stein plans to present his recommendation at the Dec. 16 Wayland School Committee at 7 p.m in the Wayland Town Building. 

Before any changes can be made, the School Committee must approve the plan and town meeting voters must approve the budget impacts, according to Stein's email. 
Ben Downs December 15, 2013 at 09:36 PM
This report shows that what the school committee told us about the reconfiguration all those years ago was not true. They told us we would save $500K a year by consolidating the schools and limiting the use of Loker. This report says it will cost us $594,645 per year to go back to the configuration we had. To all the naysayers it turns out your were right - the school committee underestimated the savings by almost $100,000 per year.
schreimike December 16, 2013 at 08:23 AM
We strongly disagree with your recommendation for a 2-3-4 model and feel that of all of the options, it is potentially the most harmful in the long term for children attending in the 2-classroom option. Our beliefs are: 1. The limitations for children at a 2-classroom model are too huge for consideration as a viable option. Socially, there is almost no way to mix up the children and enable them to develop friendships with an array of children. If a child is having social challenges, she or he becomes “stuck” for too many years. 2. There is very little opportunity for teachers to utilize one another, as they will only have one other colleague in his/her grade with whom to collaborate. 3. Transitioning to middle school is often challenging even in the best of circumstances. Children in a 2-classroom option are at a huge social disadvantage, and the potential for anxiety will more than likely be heightened for children moving from 2-classrooms to 9-classrooms. They will know significantly less children than their peers in other schools. Some have argued that participation in town sports alleviates that problem, but the reality is that not all children participate in town sports, so their voices/experiences are completely marginalized in this recommended scenario. 4. Simply put, even with the best of intentions, we do not believe that equity of services and resources is possible when one school has so fewer children and staff than other schools within the same community. We also have a few questions: 1. We don’t understand what you mean by saying that this scenario means only the creation of one new school. Regardless, Loker and Happy Hollow will have to make changes, but both are fully utilized schools. 2. How is this scenario most closely aligned with those in Wayland before the closing of Loker as a K-5? Loker certainly had more than 2 classrooms per grade. Are there now fewer children in the Loker district than there were back then? 3. Please note that in our concerns/questions posed by questions 1 and 2 above, we are NOT suggesting that Happy Hollow be the 2-classroom option. We believe that NO public school in a community of 9-classrooms per grade should only have 2 classrooms if it is feasible for more- which it IS for Wayland. 4. What is the plan for siblings of the current 4th graders? Do you plan to have siblings attend two different elementary schools next year, when both schools start/end at the same time? This is totally not feasible. 5. While you note the appeal of strong sense of community with neighborhood schools, of which we agree, you need to have a large enough community to make that happen. With approximately 40 children per grade, and more or less the same 40 children for 6 years, this can be a huge challenge for those who don’t feel they “fit” with their peers. Furthermore, it may alienate children when they transition to middle school since they will (a) know so fewer peers than the other children from the other schools, and (b) make this life transition even more pronounced coming from a tiny community and transitioning to a school that is more than 3x its size in terms of student population per grade when the children from the other schools will not have nearly as large a transition. How will you address this? Thank you for taking the time to hear our voices. We strongly urge you to reconsider your recommendation. We believe that if a neighborhood school scenario is the most desirable outcome for the long-term future of Wayland, then you should consider the 3-3-3 option. Creating a “new school” will be an issue for one year (and again, regardless, Loker and Happy Hollow both will have to adjust, not just Loker, and both have been utilized as independent schools in their own rights), but a 2-school model disadvantages children for the long-term.
Jeff Baron December 16, 2013 at 08:26 AM
Or maybe, just maybe, we never saved the money at all and this is additional cost. This report just says what it will cost, and nothing more. Either way, I could care less as this model is the right one. We never should have gone away from it, and I am SO glad we are finally righting a wrong this town's elementary school-aged kids has suffered with ever since.
Randall Moore December 16, 2013 at 10:50 AM
Two of our kids were transferred to CPH after beginning their elementary years at Loker. We were impacted by the decision, mostly in terms of logistics; longer bus rides and having to cross Rt 20. In my opinion, most of the inconvenience fell to the parents. As far as the kids go, they were resilient and did not complain one bit as we never shared our kvetching with them. I'm happy to see the town return to neighborhood schools. Too late for my kids, but better late than never.
Jeff Baron December 16, 2013 at 10:56 AM
I agree that the kids did not complain. Look, my little one never knew anything else. We presented to my oldest in as positive a light as possible, and she only had the one 'K' year before the switch, so she hardly knew better either. However, both of my kids saw some very big class sizes and, in particular years, I think their experience was worse than it could have been because of it. Most of all, the neighborhood experience was missed. Frankly, that had tons of value on its own. It is also almost too late for my kids, one will be in 5th grade next year and then we're done with elementary, but I am happy for those who it will benefit as I know what we're gaining back. Mike's comments above warrant strong consideration. I would hope more thought will be put into that aspect of the plan.
Jeff Dieffenbach December 16, 2013 at 05:24 PM
Anyone interested in the School Committee's September 2009 estimate of the elementary school reconfiguration cost savings may find it here. http://www.waylandschoolcommittee.org/details/fy09-es-reconfiguration-savings.htm
WaylandTransparency.com December 16, 2013 at 06:10 PM
Anyone interested in learning about why Loker School closed in the first place and what went on back in 2008, may find it here: http://www.waylandtransparency.com/reconfiguration_timeline.php
Wayland Transparent December 16, 2013 at 08:04 PM
The above poster who has hijacked my logon id has nothing to do with transparency in Wayland in recommends their own posts.
WaylandTransparency.com December 16, 2013 at 09:07 PM
For as many times as we've Ben down this road, this anonymous poster who has hijacked our name, has no affiliation with WaylandTransparency.com which was founded in 2008.
Jeff Dieffenbach December 17, 2013 at 06:40 AM
@schreimike, thanks much for your thoughtful comments. For the K-5 model, the only way that I see to avoid the "2 problem" is to go with the 3-3-3 configuration. As I read the task force's report, the disadvantage of 3-3-3 vs. 2-3-4 is that 3-3-3 offers relatively little future flexibility at Loker and Happy Hollow (future flexibility at Happy Hollow is limited under both plans).
Jeff Baron December 17, 2013 at 07:18 AM
I'm interested in the whole 'flexibility' argument, Jeff. I don't really understand the tradeoff between true neighborhood schools, which is what I believe Mike and other argue for vs. the rigid 2-3-4 proposal. I couldn't find much on flexibility in the report that meant anything. In fact, there was not any real analysis in the report comparing these two options. Why not just reopen the schools, draw definitive boundaries to eliminate the risk of neighbors going to different schools, etc. and put the fits together as the community needs them? Seems you'd gain efficiencies like fewer buses traversing town with small numbers of students on them, fewer logistical nightmares associated with the 'buffer' zones, etc. Also, some of the numbers are a bit questionable. Is the current Loker principal, for example, going to be reassigned to only WSCP and then a new one hired? If not, assigning the $77k in his salary to the transition is just moving $$ from one pocket to another. It is not then an increased cost to the system. Same questions on the custodian, secretary. Doesn't Loker already employ these people?
Jeff Dieffenbach December 17, 2013 at 07:27 AM
I can't speak to the current costs, only the ones that the School Committee documented for the first year of the reconfiguration back in 2008. Jeff B, like you, I don't know the details of the flexibility consideration. I think that what they are saying is that with the 3-3-3 model, both Happy Hollow and Loker will closer to full, whereas with 2-3-4, only Happy Hollow is close to full. I don't know what you mean by "true neighborhood" vs. "rigid 2-3-4." "Flexible 2-3-4 would be a better characterization, as the buffer zones allow the schools to "redistrict" in a fluid way (albeit one that may have neighbors going to different schools). If I read shreimike correctly, he/she is expressing a preference for 3-3-3 over 2-3-4. By my read of his/her post, he/she hasn't expressed a preference for neighborhood versus other models: "We believe that *IF* a neighborhood school scenario is the most desirable outcome for the long-term future of Wayland, then you should consider the 3-3-3 option." [emphasis added]
Jeff Baron December 17, 2013 at 07:33 AM
True neighborhood meaning one in which the entire neighborhood (as defined) goes to the same school -- where neighbors don't go to two different schools. BTW, Mike's request is for something more like 3-3-3. And based on this statement in the post, it seems quite clear there is a preference for neighborhood schools: "While you note the appeal of strong sense of community with neighborhood schools, of which we agree, you need to have a large enough community to make that happen."
Jeff Dieffenbach December 17, 2013 at 07:44 AM
Read what shreimike wrote carefully: clearly, 3-3-3 is preferred over 2-3-4. He/she is silent on a preference for 3-3-3/neighborhood vs. another model. 2-3-4 could well be "true neighborhood" if it were implemented without the buffer zones. And, 3-3-3 could be implemented with buffer zones--the number of classes per grade is independent of the use of buffer zones. I certainly agree that all else being equal, 3-3-3 is better than 2-3-4. And I certainly agree that neighborhood has real merit. But, given the realities of physical space, it is limiting relative to other models. From a cost standpoint, it will be more expensive. And educationally, it may not be as desirable as lower/upper. In short, there are good reasons to pick just about any of the models over any of the others.
Jeff Baron December 17, 2013 at 07:50 AM
I'm fairly sure I'm right about the neighborhood school preference as it relates to Mike. Not that important, though. I agree that arguments could be made for all options EXCEPT the one we have now, which does not work. In the end, the elementary school community has made it abundantly clear that three neighborhood schools is the preferred option, even knowing it may be more expensive. That is all that matters to me and I support that as the choice simply for that reason.
Jeff Dieffenbach December 17, 2013 at 07:57 AM
Jeff B, what's your preference for 3-3-3 vs. 2-3-4? Would you make the change if it triggered an override where one wouldn't otherwise be needed? What if Town Meeting voted to cut the proposed budget by the amount of the reconfiguration? Would you reconfigure and make the cuts elsewhere? If so, where (a big part of the answer would likely end up being via higher class sizes at the MS and HS levels)?
Jeff Baron December 17, 2013 at 08:05 AM
My first preference is for a return to three schools. Right behind that is the 3-3-3 (true neighborhood schools). I am in support of paying the tab for this IN ADDITION TO my current tab if need be(e.g. - no cut). I do question some of the cost estimates, as noted above, so I'd want to understand those questions and feel confident in what the real tab is. I also note that we could probably save some money by reconfiguring in non student-facing areas. Move school finances to the town office. We'd definitely save some personnel cost there and probably gain some better independent oversight. Obviously thinking bigger than a short term fix with this next one, but how about combining some admin services with nearby towns? Do we need two of everything between Wayland and Weston, for example? Maybe we could do with one and share the costs. I guess I'm saying student-facing school services is my first priority (along with obvious ones like police and fire). I think we have shortchanged the elementary school population on this front since the 2008 reconfig. If, in the end, it means I pay a bit more in taxes (call it $50/family per these estimates), I'm willing to do it.
Jeff Dieffenbach December 17, 2013 at 08:26 AM
I don't understand what you mean by "return to three schools" vs. "3-3-3." 3-3-3 IS a K-5 in each of three schools model. What the 3-3-3 means is that there are 3 of each grade level in each of the 3 schools. By comparison, 2-3-4 (which is also a neighborhood schools model) means 2 at Loker, 3 at Happy Hollow, and 4 at Claypit Hill. So, if I read you correctly, you're advocating for 3-3-3 despite the lack of flexibility. For what it's worth, I would probably choose 3-3-3 over 2-3-4.-----As for cutting costs away from students, fair enough, but that's easier said than done. The ORC report showed that Wayland is light on administration, if I recall correctly--I don't see where you make cuts there. If class size increases are off the table, that means you've effectively said that 3/4 of the budget is untouchable. Roughly speaking, that means cutting on the order of $500k from $8M in costs--that's over 6%. And much of that cost can't really be cut--utilities and transportation, for instance.-----No, the only way you can take $500k from elsewhere in the budget without reducing services is to raise fees. And fees are already too high for a public school system.-----I'm all for combining services within Wayland, and moving school finances might be a good place to do that. But, that hardly makes a dent in the $500k number. As for going semi-regional with Weston, no objection to exploring. But, keep in mind that they spend a LOT more per student than we do. And, decision-making then takes 2 separate town meetings.
Jeff Baron December 17, 2013 at 08:31 AM
Return to three schools vs. what we have now (2 schools). And yes, 3-3-3 vs. 2-3-4. The first encompasses a larger community, as Mike advocates for above. Not saying, by the way, we could cut all $500k, but we could make dents. And, like I said, maybe some of these costs are not actually increases (see the Principal example I mentioned). As for semi-regional with Weston (or Sudbury), I was more focused on town services than schools. By cutting/sharing some of those costs, it makes something like this $500k more affordable.

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