Brunswick School Board considers impact of redistricting

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BRUNSWICK — School Board members participated in a workshop Wednesday night to talk about redistricting following closure of Longfellow School.

Longfellow, Coffin and Jordan Acres schools now house elementary students ranging from kindergarten to third grade. When Longfellow closes, students in K-2 will by divided between Coffin and Jordan Acres while all students in grades 3-5 will go to Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School.

Several options for redistricting were presented to the board during a regular meeting Nov. 10. Some options were straight lines dividing the town into east and west sections, while others divided the town into north and south. Still others would allow children in some neighborhoods to walk to the school of their choice.

During Wednesday’s workshop, Superintendent Paul Perzanoski presented the options along with information about the impact of moving students. The school board is still considering if students from Longfellow will be the only ones moved or if redistricting will result in Coffin and Jordan Acres students being relocated, too.

Concerns about inefficient transportation routes were discussed as reasons to move students in all three schools.

Perzanoski presented information previously requested by board members, including Department of Education capacity numbers for Coffin and Jordan Acres, the projected number of students entering kindergarten in the fall, and breakdowns of free and reduced lunch distributions for each redistricting scenario.

Moving students from only Longfellow will displace 94 students, he said, while allowing students to be “grandfathered” at Coffin and Jordan Acres. Estimates vary on the number of displaced students if redistricting effects all three schools.

“It is in the best interest of kids to disrupt as few as possible,” Perzanoski said, adding the School Department has in the past been able to consider requests on a family by family basis. “Your policies allow us to look at each individual case. Sometimes that results in buses all over town.”

He said no matter the option chosen by the board, staggered start times should also be changed to decrease the amount of time students spend waiting for buses. He encouraged the board to revisit any decision made this year in a couple of years to assess its effectiveness.

“There are too many variables concerning the Brunswick student population,” Perzanoski said.

While the workshop was well attended, there was little public comment. Former School Board member Alan Yuodsnukis spoke about the effect of poverty on students as being “corrosive.” He said he is glad to hear the board plans to take into consideration the economic diversity of students.

“The town will change and it’s an issue that will stay at the forefront,” Yuodsnukis said.

Dana Bateman said her children attend Coffin and she is glad the board is considering grandfathering current students where they are. She expressed concern estimates for free and reduced lunch will vary greatly.

“No matter what happens, the numbers are going to change,” Bateman said. “It’s a moving target.”

Rich Ellis, who was elected to the board in November and will be seated in January, said student/teacher ratios are also important considerations along with the number of classrooms at each school. 

The board is expected to take up redistricting again Dec. 8 during a regular meeting.

“We have a lot to think about between now and next Wednesday,” Chairman Corinne Perreault said.

Redistricting maps and information can be found on the school website at www.brunswick.k12.me.us.

Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or sgrinnell@theforecaster.net.

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