Elementary/Middle School Redesign

Frequently Asked Questions: You may be wondering

Q: Why is Holyoke moving to separate elementary and middle schools and redrawing school boundary lines?

The top reason to move to separate elementary and middle schools and redraw school boundary lines is to better meet students’ academic and social-emotional needs. We will do this by:

  • Designing schools tailored to elementary or middle school grades;
  • Staffing each grade with a complete team of teachers who have time to collaborate together; and
  • Expanding learning opportunities, including growing dual language and offering varied enrichment opportunities to students.

Additionally, this plan will:

  • Ensure program continuity for dual language and special education
  • Be more equitable
  • Dedicate resources to instruction, not operations

Q: What is the future grade configuration at HPS?

Beginning in fall 2023, elementary schools will serve grades PreK-5 or K-5, depending on space available. Middle school will serve grades 6-8.

Q: How was this decision made?

HPS leadership analyzed more than 40 scenarios and listened to extensive input along the way to arrive at the option we have today. We especially want to thank the nearly 450 people who filled out the phase 1 rezoning survey, and more than 900 participants who attended a phase 1 outreach meeting this fall. We also want to thank the Rezoning Task Force, Rezoning Working Group, Family and Community Engagement Team, Cabinet leaders, and School Committee for their efforts along the way. We also thank AppGeo, our technical geographic information system (GIS) consultants who lead the back-end analytics for the scenarios and boundary maps. 

Q: Will staff members keep their jobs through these changes?

  • Short answer: YES!!! Long answer: Our Holyoke educators and staff members are committed to our students and families, and therefore, we are committed to them. Every staff member in good standing with the district will continue to have a job—and a home—at HPS, even as these changes are made. All staff members received an email on October 28 with the final reassignment and transfer process, which includes important dates as well.

Q: What programmatic and grade changes will take place at my school in 2023 or 2026?

We appreciate everyone who has helped us arrive at many of these decisions. In all cases, the boundary lines for the schools will change, so it is possible that students will move to a different school than they are currently in.

Donahue. Donahue will continue to be a PreK-5 school with programming that serves students with autism. Some students with autism will also attend another elementary school. As the program has continued to grow, it limits inclusion opportunities at Donahue, so we need to have at least two schools with autism programming. We estimate that Donahue will have 3 general education homerooms per grade.

Holyoke Middle. Holyoke Middle (grades 6-8) is currently co-located with Peck (grades 4-8). It will not be a school beyond this school year; all staff and students will move to another HPS school. Depending on where students live, they will go to Holyoke STEM, Metcalf, or Sullivan.

Kelly. Kelly will continue to be a PreK-5 school. Kelly will offer dual language programming (an estimated two homerooms per grade) and traditional “English-only” or monolingual programming (an estimated two homerooms per grade.) It will also have PreK programming and at least one sub-separate special education program (to be announced by late November).

Lawrence. Lawrence will expand its grades to serve students in grades PreK-5. Lawrence will likely have approximately 3 homerooms per grade. It will have PreK programming and at least one sub-separate special education program (to be announced by late November).

McMahon. McMahon will serve students in grades K-5. McMahon is likely to have 3 homerooms per grade. At this time, given its small size, we are unsure whether we will be able to fit one PreK classroom at McMahon. It is the second smallest building in the HPS portfolio with only 21 full-size classrooms. 

Metcalf. Short answer: Metcalf will become a middle school with traditional monolingual programming from 2023-2026. All dual language students will be transitioned to E.N. White (elementary school) and Sullivan (middle school). We are still determining whether there will be space for one dual language PreK class at E.N. White or whether all dual language PreK will need to be at Kelly. Metcalf Middle School will remain open until a new Peck building is built – or, if the City determines funding isn’t available, then students will move into the old Peck building. They will merge with students at Holyoke STEM. We are still determining which sub-separate special education programming will be located at Metcalf Middle (to be announced by late November.)

Background: Metcalf is currently a PreK-8 all dual language school across two campuses (the original at 2019 Northampton and then in a rented space in the former Blessed Sacrament building). The original building is the smallest building in the HPS portfolio, with only 14 full-size classrooms (compared to 26 – 33 in all other schools besides McMahon and Peck). It is not large enough to be a full-sized school that offers the range of support (interventionist teachers, SPED (special education) and EL (english learners) teachers at each grade, coaching) and enrichment (physical education, art, music, etc.) that our students, families and staff have requested. It is also more than 100 years old. 

Morgan. Morgan will remain a PreK-5 school. It is likely to have 3 homerooms per grade (more than the two it has currently) and have fewer PreK classrooms (as those are spread out over the district). We are still determining which sub-separate special education programming will be located at Morgan (to be announced by late November.)

Peck. Short answer: Peck will be temporarily closed and all students will attend a different school in fall 2023. Background: Peck currently serves grades 4-8, while being co-located with Holyoke Middle (grades 6-8). We are in the process with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to hopefully build a new middle school for approximately 550 students at the Peck school location. If this project moves forward, the existing Peck building needs to be vacated in order to demolish and build new. Accordingly, from fall 2023 to spring 2026, we will vacate the building. Students will be served at one of three middle school buildings (STEM, Metcalf, and either Donahue, Kelly or Sullivan). Then, if and when a new middle school is built at Peck by fall 2026, the students from STEM and Metcalf Middle will merge to form a new Peck. If we are unable to secure funding from the City of Holyoke and/or MSBA to build a new building, then the students from STEM and Metcalf Middle will move into the old Peck building and become one school (not two). 

STEM. STEM is a grades 6-8 school co-located at Holyoke High School Dean Campus. It will remain a grades 6-8 school in 2023, but will merge with Metcalf Middle in fall 2026 or 2027. If a new school is built at the Peck school location (likely in 2026/27), the students from STEM will move into the new middle school and combine with the middle school students at Metcalf. If a new school is not built at Peck, the students will still move into the Peck school, but the date could be sooner. We will still have STEM programming at the middle school level at Peck, but STEM will not be its own school. Middle schools will have many enrichment opportunities, including arts, music, physical education, STEM and world languages. The boundary lines for Holyoke STEM will change, since the students who go to STEM in 2023 are the students who need to be zoned for Peck in 2026. STEM will continue to serve students with autism as well. 

Sullivan. Sullivan will become a grades 6-8 middle school with an estimated 6-8 homerooms per grade. Eventually, about half of the school will operate dual language programming. We are still determining which sub-separate special education programming will be at Sullivan (to be announced in late November). Most elementary students at Sullivan will go to McMahon; some may attend Donahue next fall. 

E.N. White. E.N. White will be a PreK/K-5 full dual language school with 4 homerooms per grade. We are determining whether we can fit one dual language PreK class at E.N. White; if there is not enough space, DL PK will be at Kelly. Students who are currently in the “strand” (English-only) class will need to move to another elementary school, depending on their address. Going forward, students who live closest to E.N. White (see the proposed zone maps) will be enrolled in dual language. If they choose not to have dual language programming, they will instead attend Donahue.

Q: Will school hours change with rezoning?

Yes, it is possible that school hours will change. In order to minimize transportation costs, we have an early tier of busing and a later tier of busing. With the number of students and boundary lines changing, we will need to reroute our buses and determine the best start and end times. We recognize we have had a lot of change to start and end times in the past six years and will seek to limit this going forward. Start and end times will be published by early spring.

Q: Which schools will be elementary schools?

Donahue, E.N. White, Kelly, Lawrence, McMahon and Morgan will be elementary schools. Most will be grades PreK-5. We are still exploring whether there is room for PreK at E.N. White and McMahon. Please note, dual language programming in elementary school will be at E.N. White and Kelly.

Q: Which schools will be middle schools?

In the long-run, Peck and Sullivan will be middle schools with 500-550 students each. In the short-term, Peck will be vacated in fall 2023 as we try to build a new building at that location. For 3-4 years, students who will eventually be at Peck will instead be divided across Metcalf Middle and Holyoke STEM. Please note, dual language programming in middle school will be at Sullivan beginning fall 2023.

Q: Where will dual language programming be offered?

 E.N. White will be the full dual language elementary school with an estimated 4 dual language classes per grade. Kelly will be the partial dual language elementary school with an estimated 2 dual language classes per grade and 1-2 traditional monolingual classes (aka English-only classes). Sullivan will be the partial dual language middle school with approximately four homerooms per grade eventually. (By next fall, we anticipate 2 classes of dual language in 7th and 8th grade due to enrollment.)

Q. Where will special education programming be located?

We will announce where all special education programming will be located by the end of November. When possible, we are trying to minimize changes.

Q. Where will students in the autism program attend school?

Currently, we have two programs that serve students with autism: ABL (which is primarily a sub-separate program) and SIP (which stands for supported inclusion program). The number of students enrolled in autism programs has grown in recent years. And, we need to consider a variety of factors when deciding placement, including: whole-staff expertise, offering a continuum of services as the child’s needs change, and ample opportunities for inclusion. Donahue has developed an expertise in serving children with autism and will continue to do so. We will also have elementary autism programming at 1-2 other elementary schools (to be announced by late November). Autism programming in middle school will be at STEM in the short-run and Peck in the long-run. Additionally, even though program location could change, staff with expertise serving students with autism will follow the students to the extent possible. 

Q: Where will my child be attending school next year?

It depends on where you live and the programming your child receives. School assignments will not be finalized until the end of November.  This is when we will know where each student will be attending school next year. We have two proposed zone maps and are soliciting input at public meetings and via a survey on which map to choose. 

Q: What transportation will be provided for students and their families?

The transportation eligibility criteria will be the same as it is currently and can be found on the HPS transportation webpage.

Q: How will seats for dual language programming be allocated?

This is the first year that we have six dual language kindergarten classes, and we intend to keep six classes going forward. Currently, and in the future, we intend to allocate them so that there are the equivalent of two dual language homerooms per grade for students at E.N. White, another two for students in the Kelly zone, and another two for students across the district (who will then attend at E.N. White as well.) Of course, enrollment and demographics from year to year may change, but we will strive for a balance by location, race, and language proficiency. 

Q: Who will serve as principals of each school beginning in fall 2023?

Text highlighted in BOLD ITALIC reflects a change from today.

SCHOOL GRADES PRINCIPAL NOTES
Donahue PK-5 Marc Swygert
E.N. White PK/K-5 Amy Burke Full dual language program
Kelly PK-5 Aaron Morris Partial dual language program 
Lawrence PK-5 Cathy Hourihan
McMahon PK/K-5 Karyn McDermott
Morgan PK-5 Sacha Garcia-Mailloux
Metcalf 6-8 Kate Ritchie Metcalf will be a middle school for 3-4 years before merging with Holyoke STEM and moving to current/new Peck.
Holyoke STEM 6-8  Korin Hall STEM will remain open as a middle school for 3-4 years before merging with Metcalf and eventually moving into current/new Peck.
Sullivan 6-8 Rue Ratray Partial dual language program 

Notes: 

  • Two current principals—Mr. Steven Moguel and Ms. Sarita Graveline—will move into district leadership positions next school year. 
  • School leadership teams, and the location and number of sub-separate special education and PreK classes, will be announced in late November.

Q: Will any students be allowed to stay at their current schools?

The school a student attends will be based on their home address, and, if relevant, a program in which they are enrolled. We have received feedback to consider allowing students in their last year of elementary school (grade 5) or middle school (grade 8) to remain at their current school. This is possible for some, but not all, students given the changes in the schools’ grade configurations and programming. Please take the Phase 2 Outreach survey between November 1 – 14 to share your opinion.

Q. What if I don’t want my child to switch schools?

You will know in December, and possibly sooner, whether your child is switching schools. If your child is switching schools, we encourage you to meet that principal and get to know that school community before making a judgment. We will also post information about the zone appeal process by late November.

Q: What will the zone appeal process be?

The current zone appeal process is located on our webpage. We are collecting feedback on whether people think other factors should be considered or how decisions are made. Please take the Phase 2 Outreach survey between November 1 – 14 to share your opinion.

Q: Where will students who choice into HPS go to school?

If students attend a specific program (e.g. dual language), they will continue to be in that program. If they are not in a specific program, they will either remain at their current school or attend a new school where the majority of their peers will attend. We are soliciting input on this, so please write your suggestions in the Phase 2 survey (last question).

Q: Will the teachers at my child’s school be going with them to their new school?

To the extent possible, when a whole program (e.g. dual language elementary from Metcalf, or a sub-separate program) or entire grade (e.g. grades 6-8 at McMahon) is moving, we will do our best to move teachers along with students. Due to also redrawing school boundary lines to meet the rezoning guidelines, this will be an imperfect process.

Q: Who makes the final decisions?

Superintendent Soto will make the final decision. However, he continues to solicit input from many people in order to arrive at the best decision. For the phase 1 outreach, nearly 450 people completed a survey, and more than 900 participants attended a meeting. We are thankful that the School Committee unanimously supports the phase 1 announcement. We are hopeful that many people also participate in the Phase 2 outreach and announcement. Superintendent Soto also appreciates the various groups of people who have been very involved in rezoning, including the Rezoning Task Force, Rezoning Working Group, Family and Community Engagement Team, Cabinet leaders, and School Committee.

Q: What will be done to ease the transition for students?

This is a big change for our students, and we want to support them through this change. Many suggestions are being considered, including: school tours; school events; a video overview; and communication via email, text, and phone. Please take the Phase 2 Outreach survey between November 1 – 14 to share your opinion.

Q: How will families be supported in accessing the school if not within walking distance of the school?

We are considering many ideas, including bus transportation for student events, personalized transportation for school meetings, child care at school meetings, and more. Please take the Phase 2 Outreach survey between November 1 – 14 to share your opinion.

Q: What improvements have already been made to Sullivan School?

We have made investments in the Sullivan facility over the past few years, including windows and exterior doors replacements, partial roof replacement, new exterior landscaping, and air conditioning. We are in the process of installing new LED lights (to replace the old fluorescent ones), designing an entry vestibule to increase safety, and designing a new basketball court.

Q: What improvements will be made to facilities?

We are soliciting input on this now, especially for Sullivan School. Please take the Phase 2 Outreach survey between November 1 – 14 to share your opinion about what is most important. The items listed in the survey are:

  • Main entrance security upgrades 
  • Updated gymnasium 
  • New or updated athletic fields/courts 
  • Age appropriate play structures 
  • Building and grounds beautification 
  • Age appropriate bathroom modifications 
  • Updated grade level appropriate furniture 
  • Classroom soundproofing
  • Dedicated music room 
  • New or updated science labs
  • A locker for every student
  • Upgraded security camera coverage
  • New or updated school signage and branding
  • Updated library with age appropriate furniture, technology, and materials
  • Updated common spaces to create flexible learning environments
  • Dedicated specialized rooms such as a makerspace, dance studio, or media lab

Q: What decisions still need to be made?

By the end of November: We will announce the exact boundary lines, the location of special education programming, the process by which any displaced students will be assigned to a specific program, the school assignment appeals process and timeline, and the exact date in December when impacted staff will be notified.

Q: How can I have input on the decisions?

We definitely want to hear from you!

  • Take a survey, which is open until November 14
  • Attend an all-stakeholders meeting (Flier)
    • Tuesday, November 1
      • 5 p.m. Tour of Sullivan School building
      • 5:30 -7 p.m. In-person meeting at Sullivan.
      • Food for all, fun activities for children, interpretation available
    • Tuesday, November 8
    • Monday, November 21, 6 p.m. during the School Committee meeting (Zoom link)

We have many resources available for you to learn more about this decision and what it means for you.

Q: Is Holyoke pursuing a new middle school?

Yes, Holyoke is trying to build a new middle school. We are working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and City Council, both of which help pay for the building. There are many steps to the process, and the earliest a new school would be ready to open is Fall 2026. To learn more about this project, visit the website.

Q: When might a new middle school be built?

Fall 2026 at the earliest. It may take until fall 2027.

Q: What happens if Holyoke is unable to secure funding for a new middle school building?

If Holyoke is unable to secure funding for a new middle school building from either the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) or City Council, then the current Peck building will be a grades 6-8 middle school for 500-550 students. The students who would otherwise be at Metcalf Middle or Holyoke STEM will then combine to be one school at Peck.

Q: What will the uniform expectations be?

We haven’t made any decisions about uniforms yet, but we have clearly heard that people are eager for similar expectations across the middle schools. If you have more suggestions or input, please write it into the last question on the Phase 2 survey.