The idea of closing York City School District's two middle schools isn't just a cost-saving measure.
It's a method of addressing declining enrollment, maximizing space, getting more students under one roof, limiting walking distance and setting up a better long-term answer for instruction, said Superintendent Deborah Wortham.
Parents became concerned after the district posted a notice on its website late last week announcing an April 17 meeting at the high school to discuss closing the middle schools and converting the elementary schools from PreK-4 to PreK-8.
Among parents questions: Would there be enough space? Would younger students be bullied? How would it all work?
Wortham said many of the questions will be addressed in coming weeks, but emphasized that a final decision won't be needed from the board until July.
That's why some details aren't firm yet, she said. She's planning on holding lunchtime meetings at various schools to meet with parents to talk to them face-to-face.
Capacity issues: Wortham said she's confident the elementary schools can each accommodate the 175 to 200 or so middle schoolers that would entering their schools. That's due in part to renovations at most of those elementaries in the past two years that have added classroom space.
"None of the elementary schools would be at capacity," Wortham said.
Wortham couldn't say yet how class size would be affected, though.
"We're looking at that as well. It's a plan in motion," she said.
Staff changes that would be required haven't been revealed yet, either.
Under the plan, students who would have attended Hannah Penn or Smith middle schools this fall would instead go to their neighborhood elementary school.
It makes sense from a safety standpoint, Wortham said. A student is likely going to have to walk a shorter distance to their local elementary school rather than one of two middle schools on either end of the city.
And it could help parents, she said, who have been dropping one child at elementary school and another child at middle school.
Idea origination: Parents were involved with the idea from the start, Wortham said.
The idea originated last fall when the district had community members come together to talk about ways to save money.
The members wanted a better way to deliver instruction to students, Wortham said. And one way of doing that is getting elementary and middle school students under one roof to maximize resources and make it easier for students to transition from year to year, she said.
Something has to be done, Wortham said. York City schools have lost more than 1,000 students since 2009, mostly due to migration to charter schools.
"The main emphasis is how do we keep our kids in the community?" Wortham said.
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