Niskayuna board narrows middle school options

2 of 5 plans dropped on reconfiguration

Monday, December 3, 2012
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— Two options for reconfiguring Niskayuna’s middle schools have been dropped as the Board of Education looks to decide on changes by the end of the year.

For the past year, the district has been studying how it could change its middle school program based on recommendations from a consultants’ report. Everything from curriculum to building configuration has been under review.

Superintendent Susan Kay Salvaggio said when the board had the community roundtable discussions, there was almost no support for an idea to turn Rosendale Elementary School into a grade six school, sending all students to Iroquois and closing Van Antwerp. Another option the board took off the table was using Van Antwerp as a grade six school with seventh and eighth grade at Iroquois.

That leaves three remaining options — one that maintains the status quo and the other two that involve closing Van Antwerp and shuffling students around to other schools.

One version would involve moving sixth grade to each of the five elementary schools and keeping Iroquois as a grade seven and eight school. Another variation would only move the sixth grade to the elementary schools for one year until Iroquois could be expanded to house all sixth- through eighth- graders in a subsequent year.

The board will discuss the options at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 10, in the Van Antwerp Middle School auditorium.

Falling enrollment

One factor is enrollment for the district is expected to decline in the coming five years, according to Salvaggio.

She noted that the enrollment in kindergarten has hovered between 257 and 273 and the most recent graduating class had 343 kids. Using the current number of students and projecting that forward, she predicted that total middle school enrollment would drop in five years from 960 to 814.

In last year’s budget discussions, Salvaggio had said that closing a middle school would save a little more than $600,000.

In any decision, Salvaggio said the district would have to find an alternative use for Van Antwerp. “We wouldn’t allow a building to sit idle,” she said.

Salvaggio added that the community has also made it clear that it wants to maintain all of its elementary buildings.

“The idea of closing one of the elementary schools and redistricting the entire population was not attractive to anybody,” she said.

Salvaggio said the discussions have to wrap up by no later than January because she needs to begin planning for next year’s budget.

The board also has to decide what other recommendations from the consultants’ report — if any — they want to implement in the 2013-2014 year.

Trying to incorporate music into the school day was another key suggestion. However, school officials were unable to design a schedule for this school year to make that happen.

Under the present system, middle schoolers are bused to the high school, where they practice before the start of their school day.

“Most of our kids are musicians and most of our kids are athletes and they have an incredibly long day as a result of that,” Salvaggio said.

Another recommendation was offering more accelerated courses such as in science. Niskayuna is one of the few schools in the Capital Region that doesn’t offer an accelerated science course for eighth-graders, according to Salvaggio.

Salvaggio said another priority is restoring that time in the day where students could get extra help or teachers could work with students on interdisciplinary projects. Parents and teachers were upset with a new schedule this year that decreased the number of periods from nine to eight and eliminated flexible and academic advisement time.

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December 3, 2012
10:25 a.m.
newyorker65 says...

Students need to be in instructional classes longer than the 6 hour day, 9 month year schedule from a hundred years ago! But alas, I fear we will never get this idea past the almighty teacher's union!

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