Redistricting process moves forward for Shrewsbury elementary schools

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community reporter

Shrewsbury – Patrick Collins, assistant superintendent for finance & operations, gave a brief report to the School Committee Nov. 4 relative to the district’s plans for redistricting the elementary school zones in anticipation for the fall 2021 opening of the new Major Howard W. Beal School.

“The Beal project has been a good news story persistently, even through this pandemic period,” Collins remarked. “The construction project is on schedule and set to open next August/September.”

The district has contracted with consultants from AppGeo, a firm who has expertise in assisting with school redistricting in other Massachusetts municipalities. 

With the opening of the school, the number of elementary schools in Shrewsbury will increase by one and each of the five schools will then be designated K through grade 4. As such, this will require redistricting of the elementary school “attendance zones.”

An 11-member ad hoc committee was established in September 2019. Consisting of School Committee members, school administrators and parents, it had met a couple of times prior to the pandemic. It has recently reconvened. 

“We appreciate the parent input that is on this committee and providing input into the recommendation,” he added.

AppGeo will take the student enrollment and digitally map by address, elementary school zone and demographic information. 

Primary considerations for the ad hoc committee include ensuring education needs are met, ensuring availability of dedicated instructional space, account for future development and growth, emphasize the “neighborhood school” approach, consider student demographics and minimize change.

Collins shared that the next steps will be for AppGeo to build several scenarios, schedule meeting for evaluations, and incorporate projection data into those scenarios.

“We have scheduled Dec. 1 for our first virtual community forum so that would be the first time that we present some preliminary options for the entire community to look at and to explain some of the basics of the process to the community,” he said.

Their goal is to bring a formal recommendation to be voted on by the School Committee as early as their Feb. 10 meeting.

“This is so exciting…This is a really complicated process and I think you’ve laid out a very reasonable process and I hope we can get the community to engage early and frequently because we know they have strong feelings,” commented committee member Lynsey Heffernan.