Frameworks Committee postpones forums2/12/09

New building configurations being discussed

Feb. 12, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

In a near last minute decision, members of the Williston Conceptual Frameworks Committee and the school administration postponed a community forum that had been scheduled for Monday night.

The community forum would have been a chance for parents to weigh in on the best building and grade-grouping configuration options for the schools. But Mary Jane Shelley, the committee’s facilitator, said a different building configuration option was being discussed in the group and there wasn’t enough time to adequately present the option to the public before the Feb. 9 meeting. The committee spent much of its Feb. 5 meeting hammering out different design possibilities for the new building configuration option.

Shelley stressed that the group wanted to make this new configuration option easy to understand in a forum setting and to work out a few more details before bringing it before the community. She added that configuration recommendations to the School Board, scheduled for April, should not be delayed by the postponed forums.

Even with the new building configuration change, the forum was going to take place as planned. But Shelley decided more time was needed. An Alert Now notice went out to parents of students on Sunday. The community forum, along with a teacher’s forum, will be rescheduled for early March. Shelley said she hopes to know a date by next week.

“The community and teachers will be able to get more information and give better feedback to the committee,” Shelley said.

The new building configuration option would put grades one through four at Allen Brook School, and grades five through eight, along with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students, at Williston Central School. In the community and teacher forums, there were many positive comments about this configuration, but participants did not like what would have to be sacrificed — namely art and music rooms at Allen Brook. But with new enrollment projections for the 2010-2011 school years — when a new configuration could go into effect — the music and art rooms look to remain.

“When the administration originally figured out the numbers on all the building configuration options, they were thinking of next year (2009-2010),” Shelley said.

The only room that would be affected for this building configuration would be a computer lab at Allen Brook School. For the first year of a new configuration, this option would require computers to be brought into classrooms and the lab be used as office space. But with no impact on classroom space, this was seen as a favorable alternative.

Shelley said the committee believes the new option satisfies more items on a list of top 10 criteria the committee had previously compiled. The previous building option the committee considered, which would have placed kindergarten through third grade at Allen Brook, with pre-kindergarten and fourth through eighth grade at Williston Central, is no longer on the table, Shelley said.

Still, Shelley said the committee needs to understand the tradeoffs various grade configuration options might bring. Administration and School Board members plan to look closely this week at each of the configuration options the committee has proposed for feedback at the forums, to make sure the community and teachers understand all the details before providing input. Shelley said more concrete numbers and information should be available in time for the committee’s Feb. 19 meeting.

“This new building configuration offers the possibility of allowing for four-year grade spans and shorter grade spans, as well as the same age groups in one building,” Shelley said.

The community and teachers will also have the opportunity to weigh in on the option of keeping the current configuration with no changes, Shelley added.

The next Frameworks Committee meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 19 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The dates for the community and teacher’s forums have yet to be announced.