Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

December 19, 2013

School redistricting an early 2014 decision

By Dustin Luca

---- — While new district lines for the town’s elementary schools won’t be in place until fall 2015, the plan for where students will eventually end up should be set by early next year.

School Committee Chairman Dennis Forgue said this week that an official presentation of new district lines is expected at the Jan. 9 School Committee meeting.

That plan will reflect the increased capacity of the new Bancroft Elementary School, which will be able to accommodate 180 more students than the current school.

Even though the new Bancroft School will be open next fall, the School Committee voted earlier this month to delay the implementation of the district lines until the 2015-2016 school year to allow for the completion of remaining site work. The final work would be complicated by the increase in the student body, officials said.

But the School Committee wants to have the new district lines in place this year to aid parents as they consider their students’ future placements.

A final vote to establish the new lines is expected in early February, allowing one month for feedback from the public before the districts are finalized, according to Forgue.

The new district lines were generated by bringing what will eventually be five elementary schools as close to 93 percent capacity as possible, while also affecting as few households as necessary, Forgue said.

“The goals were really balancing enrollment in all five schools, move as few students as possible, and both of those things were accomplished,” he said.

The redistricting will mean all students in kindergarten and higher grades will be moved out of Shawsheen School starting in fall 2015. The choice elementary school popular with parents has been at the center of discourse throughout the redistricting process because of the assumption that it would be closing.

Only pre-kindergarten students will remain at Shawsheen in 2015-2016. Meanwhile, what the school will look like next year is still being determined, according to Superintendent Marinel McGrath.

“We will have to make a decision about this prior to kindergarten registration,” she said. “We are reviewing the data and possible scenarios to determine the best strategy for going forward next year.”