Rezoning

Why is Holyoke Public Schools rezoning its elementary and middle schools?

What are the facility differences at Donahue, Kelly, and Sullivan?

The rezoning process for grades PK-8

Holyoke Public Schools will complete the transition to separate elementary (PK-5) and middle (6-8) schools and redraw school boundary lines for fall 2023. This decision was made after many years of soliciting stakeholder input, innovating, and planning.

This plan will:

  • Better prepare students academically and socially
  • Ensure continuity for dual language and special education programming
  • Be more equitable
  • Dedicate resources to instruction, not operations

This information is also available on this easy-to-read summary.

This is an inclusive process

HPS continues to offer many opportunities to learn about rezoning and to offer input. We are living our equity commitment: We seek out and incorporate the voices of those impacted, with a commitment to include those who have been excluded in the past. To learn more and be part of the conversation, you may wish to:

  • Attend an in-person Family and Community Conversation (Flier in English and Spanish)
    • Thursday, September 29, 5:30 pm: Family and Community meeting at Holyoke High
      • Super fun, supervised activities for children ages 3 – 14
      • Yummy food 
      • Free transportation available from Sullivan (pickup at 5 p.m.) and Donahue (pickup at 5:10 p.m.)
  • Attend a Virtual Family and Community Conversation (Flier in English and Spanish)
    • Tuesday, October 11, 5:30 p.m.
      • Register here to receive the Zoom link. Parents who participate in DPAG, ELPAC, or SEPAC will receive a direct calendar invitation too.
  • Read and share this flier (English/Spanish)
  • Watch this 9-minute video with background information and hopes for the future.
  • Take a 4-minute survey (open until October 13).
  • Email your questions and suggestions to communications@hps.holyoke.ma.us

We will publicize the opportunities through our weekly newsletter (the Holyoke Update), on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and on our website.

What is guiding our decisions

The Rezoning Task Force and Rezoning Working Group helped to develop guidelines for how decisions about rezoning will be made. We then shared these during public meetings and conducted a survey. The Rezoning Guidelines are:

Most Important

  • Design schools that put student needs first and prioritizes money spent on instruction
  • Ensure equitable access to special programs

Very Important

  • Balance student demographics across schools (In discussions, this seemed especially important for middle school) 
  • Ensure program continuity from elementary to middle school 
  • Ensure efficient use of space and stable enrollment

Important

  • Ensure safe walking routes
  • Have neighborhood schools (Access to the school seemed especially important in subsequent conversations for elementary)
  • Minimize the impact of families
  • Minimize transportation costs

To read more about the elements included in each guideline, please see these slides.

Which schools should be middle schools

Of the existing school building portfolio, the building best designed for middle school students is Peck, even though the Peck building itself is too large, outdated, and poorly designed. We are trying to build a new school at the Peck location, and students cannot be in the old school during demolition and construction. Therefore, students will temporarily be at Metcalf and Holyoke STEM and will ultimately merge together at Peck in fall 2026 or 2027. 

The next best buildings to be considered as middle schools are Donahue, Kelly, and Sullivan. One of these schools will become a middle school for fall 2023. Each of these buildings has the same number of traditional size classrooms (33), so they all would meet the expected enrollment (500-550 students) well. 

See these slides to learn more about the similarities and differences of the buildings themselves and some of the pros and cons to the actual location of each building. All three school buildings have the necessary elements for a middle school building for 500-550 students. They all have:

  • Sufficient square footage in classrooms for middle school students
  • Sufficient space for gym, art, music, and other enrichment
  • Sufficiently sized cafeteria with attached stage
  • Sufficient number of bathrooms
  • Ample outdoor space and field space
  • Spaces for middle school community gatherings 
  • Ample natural and artificial lighting
  • Recent facility updates at each school

Ultimately, the decision on which of those three schools—Donahue, Kelly, Sullivan—will be converted to a middle school is most likely to be influenced by the community’s preferences for the new middle school location and for which two schools to remain as elementary schools.

Therefore, phase 1 of community discussions will focus on which of these three schools should be the middle school. 

If you haven’t been to Donahue, Kelly, or Sullivan schools, it may be hard for you to visualize what each of those schools is like now and what they might be like if selected to become a middle school next fall.

This short video includes photos from each of the three schools so you can get a feel for each of the buildings.

If you’d like to see the schools for yourself, HPS Facilities Administrator Whitney Anderson is hosting building tours as follows: 

  • Monday, September 26, Kelly School
  • Tuesday, September 27, Sullivan School
  • Thursday, September 29, Donahue School

All tours begin at 4 p.m. in the front lobby of each school.

Be sure to make your opinion known by taking the survey.

Three scenarios being considered

We analyzed 30 different options and narrowed them down to three strong scenarios—one with each middle school being considered. The scenarios are called Donahue Middle, Kelly Middle, and Sullivan Middle. We’ve designed three scenarios that are comparable to each other and better than what we currently have. There isn’t a “wrong” answer. Each scenario could work well for Holyoke.

The scenarios detail the feeder patterns, location of dual language programming, and draft maps. To learn more, watch the 9/20/22 presentation to the School Committee. If you’re short on time, read the Maps & Scenarios slides and/or watch this short video with photos of each of the three schools being considered for a future middle school.

What is happening to my school

Read the first FAQ for a summary of possible changes to each school.

Which schools are closing

Fall 2023

  • Holyoke Middle is permanently closing
  • Peck is temporarily closing as we try to build a new middle school building at that location. We are working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and City Council to hopefully secure funding for the project in 2023. If funding is not secured, we will need to use the existing Peck building.

Fall 2026 or Fall 2027

  • Grades 6-8 students at Metcalf and Holyoke STEM will merge together to form one school at the Peck location.

Printed Resources

Recorded Resources

There are many factors to be considered, so we will have two phases of community input and announcements.

Phase 1: We will solicit input on three scenarios, with a focus on discussing which school should be the second middle school. By late October, we will announce: 

  • which schools are elementary and which are middle schools in 2023 and 2026,
  • the school leader of each school in 2023,
  • the location of dual language programming, and
  • the process for staff reassignment.

Phase 2: Once we decide which schools will be elementary or middle school, then we will solicit input on drawing boundary lines for each school. By late 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, such as the dual language program or the autism program.

All HPS students deserve experiences tailored to their respective developmental stages as they progress from elementary school towards high school. This new realignment of grades by school buildings is the latest step that follows changes already made.

Previously, HPS reorganized four schools—Morgan, Kelly, E.N. White, and Donahue—so those buildings could focus on improved elementary instruction. HPS also enhanced the middle school experience by reestablishing middle school options, offering more hands-on learning and enrichment programming designed to strengthen students’ academic and social-emotional skills and engage them more deeply in school. Middle school students now have more access to extracurricular sports, arts, and music than before, and more changes will be coming. 

HPS previously introduced new middle school models. In fall 2018, Holyoke STEM Academy and Veritas Prep Holyoke opened. In SY20-21, the district’s dual language program was launched for middle school students.

In 2021, a 16-member middle grades collaborative study team made recommendations for strengthening the middle school experience for all students. You can read the presentation in English or Spanish. Highlights include:

  • Ensuring readiness for MassCore (a state-recommended program of study intended to align high school coursework with college and workforce expectations) through high quality curriculum and instruction.
  • Implementing an advisory period to support this development and offer opportunities for personal and career exploration. 
  • Providing exposure to enrichment opportunities and career pathways within core curriculum and advisory.
  • Developing and implementing a plan for middle schools now that works with/without a new building. 
  • Ensuring enough students per grade/school to allow for class and programming variety.
  • Offering continuity of programming from elementary to middle school.
  • Utilizing previous MS building work as a starting point in order to save time and money on the new project.

We especially want to express appreciation for the people who have been heavily involved in the process so far, including: 

  • the Rezoning Working Group (primarily school, district and city leaders)
  • the Rezoning Task Force (families, community members, and staff)
  • the Cabinet team
  • Stefany Garcia, Jasarah Burgos, and the entire FACE team
  • the Middle grades collaboration study team who made recommendations on the middle school model
  • the School Committee
  • the Middle School Building Committee
  • our Communications team
  • our outreach consultants (Nayroby Rosa, Jose Bou, Kathy Anderson, Cynthia Espinosa)
  • our technical consultants from AppGeo (Priya Sankalia, Ashley Tardif, Russell Cohen, Kate Hickey).

You may have seen our Family and Community Engagement team at one of more than 40 events this spring and summer to share information about rezoning changes. You will continue to see them at back-to-school events, open houses and other community events. Be sure to ask them questions!

We also thank everyone who has and will complete surveys and attend events to learn more.

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