Schenectady parents fight to keep K-8 school model
Board plans to convert to traditional K-5, 6-8 facilities
SCHENECTADY A handful of parents who once had the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school model “shoved down their throats” are now defending it vehemently as the Schenectady school board tries to end it.
The board decided two weeks ago to go back to a K-5 model, with traditional middle schools for grades six to eight.
Judt weeks ago, the board was still trying to find ways to make every elementary school a K-8 building.
But they were told that the district wouldn’t be able to provide advanced courses in every building and agreed to focus on middle schools instead to make sure every student had equal access to those courses.
On Wednesday, three parents asked the board to reconsider.
“Parents are shocked,” parent Kathy Knapp said, adding that she thought the decision was solely made for “money and buildings.”
The board should instead take into account how sixth graders do in K-8 versus a middle school, as well as discipline records and academic scores in both models, she said.
Parent Mary Redmond added that she didn’t like the K-8 model when she first heard about it. It was shoved down the parents’ throats, she said.
But it worked.
“My son started and he thrived,” she said. “Our kids thrive under this model, and you want to change it?”
Parent Nancy Kelso asked the superintendent to meet with parents from Central Park to find ways to keep the K-8 model.
“Central Park International Magnet School is a success story in our district,” she said. “Let’s not cut off our strongest limbs. Let’s build on that success.”
Superintendent Laurence Spring quickly agreed to meet with them, but board member Cheryl Nechamen indicated that the board wouldn’t reconsider.
“I understand Central Park works well. We would like every school to work well,” she said. “We want the most opportunities for the greatest number of students.”
She emphasized that the decision had nothing to do with finances and said the board should hold meetings throughout the district to explain.
But board member Ann Reilly said the decision wasn’t certain yet.
“We have not made that actual vote,” she said.
She added that she is more concerned about equality than K-8 schools.
“My concern is with equity across the district,” she said. “Students don’t always get to choose where they go to school. They deserve the same opportunities as other students in other schools.”
In other business, the board voted on its leaders for the new school year. Cathy Lewis was elected board president for the fourth consecutive year.
Board member Andrew Chestnut voted “present” on her nomination, saying he wanted leadership to rotate among members. John Foley was not present, so Lewis was named president by a vote of 5-1.
Foley was elected vice president by a 6-0 vote.