Few oppose reshuffling grades in Marlborough

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By Art Simas Community Reporter

Marlborough – A plan that will establish grade reconfigurations of K through 4, 5 through 8 and 9 through 12 met with little to no opposition at a public hearing Feb. 8 prior to the regular School Committee meeting.

Superintendent Anthony Pope said the reconfiguration would provide more options for students, create a true middle school at Whitcomb and a true high school.

Under the proposal, current elementary grades K through3 will become K through 4; the Whitcomb School will house grades 5 through 8 and Marlborough High School would have the traditional freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Of the 14 people who either e-mailed their response or spoke at the Feb. 8 public hearing, only one person was opposed to the proposed reconfiguration. Steven Slocum, 10 Baker Drive, said he would rather see an emphasis on the curriculum instead of relocating students to different schools.

He said his son was excited about going to Marlborough High School next year and pursuing a variety of after-school activities such as band, foreign language club and athletics.

“He won's have that opportunity now,” Slocum said.

But Pope reassured parents that any activity a student has now will still be available to them next year, even if they are in a different school.

The majority of the parents said the reconfiguration can's come soon enough and were generally not happy with forthgraders in the same school as seventh-graders.

Pamela VanBuskirk, of Moffa Lane, said mixing eighth-graders in at the high school was seen as a temporary solution in the early 1990s. “But here we are some 18 years later. It's been plenty long enough,” she said.

Rosemary Boniface, former superintendent of schools from 1971 to 2006, wrote an e-mail to the School Committee that was read by Mayor Nancy Stevens.

In her e-mail, Boniface said the decision to move to create grades 4 through 7 was done out of space and enrollment considerations 11 years ago. True middle schools and elementary schools, she wrote, are a vision, not a reality. She added that she would have preferred to have traditional schools but was not able to do that given the circumstances at the time.

At a parents and community forum Feb. 7, which drew nearly 200 people, the response to the proposed grade changes was the same – the vast majority was in favor of the change.

This discussion will continue Feb. 15, with another parents and community forum at the District Education Center, 17 Washington St., and at subsequent School Committee meetings.

Stevens said a vote will be taken on the proposal at the Tuesday, March 8 School Committee meeting.

Anyone wishing to comment on the proposal can contact individual members of the School Committee or post comments online on the Marlborough School District website, www.mps-edu.org. A summary of the proposal is also on the website.

During the School Committee meeting, Pope again outlined his vision to establish a new identity for the school district based on high expectations of teacher and student achievement through a new curriculum development that will begin in September.

The School Committee was also entertained by students from the Charles W. Whitcomb School who re-enacted seven of their Poetry Alive skits.

Students in the skits included: Arielle Castro, Michelle Boaventura, Stasia Wing, Mia Cassanelli, Maria J. Cardona, Griffin St. Amour, Kevin Rosado, Rodrigo Sales-Costa, Vanessa Ceja, Estephani Curiel, Kayla Seymour, Devin O”Donnell, Liza Castillo, Kaitlyn Chacon, Tonya Moore, Hiago Correa, Ricky Orozco, James Boardman, Jacob Boardman, Raymond Sazaz, Hannah Montague and Andrea Smith. Yetzi Villegas is also a member of the Poetry Alive group.