Rezoning

HPS School Committee Presentation on Phase 2 Rezoning – 11/21/2022 – In English

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HPS School Committee Presentation on Phase 2 Rezoning – 11/21/2022 – In Spanish

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Three Rezoning Perspectives – excerpts from 11/21/2022 School Committee meeting

HPS Superintendent Anthony Soto

Holyoke Mayor and School Committee Chair Joshua Garcia

HPS School Committee Vice Chair Mildred Lefebvre

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

Phase 2 Rezoning announcements will be made December 2

Superintendent Anthony Soto provided an update on the Rezoning process to the HPS School Committee on Monday, November 21. (Meeting slides can be accessed here.) Phase 2 decisions will be released on December 2.

Rezoning will allow the district to transition to separate elementary (PK-5) and middle (6-8) schools and redraw school boundary lines for fall 2023.

One common theme for Monday night’s discussion was this: Change—even when absolutely necessary—is hard.

Superintendent Soto reminded those in attendance that change is easier to navigate when we know we are being heard, when our suggestions are valued, when our fears and concerns are acknowledged. “I am listening. I do care,” he said several times during the presentation.

“It’s my job,” he has said on previous occasions, too, “to hear you, to consider your perspectives and incorporate them as we can, and to truly care that community-wide changes affect each individual and each family differently. It is my job to ensure that HPS meets its mission of helping all Holyoke students develop the skills and access the opportunities they need to graduate high school prepared for life, career, and college. We can only do that through equitable, high-quality education, and trusting relationships.”

That’s why rezoning—with all its messy and uncomfortable changes—is a crucial step in helping us better meet students’ academic and social-emotional needs.

Rezoning allows HPS to:

  • Design schools tailored to elementary or middle school grades;
  • Staff each grade with a complete team of teachers who collaborate together; 
  • Expand learning opportunities, including growing dual language and offering varied enrichment opportunities to students; and 
  • Dedicate more resources to instruction, not operations.

What Phase 2 entails

Under Phase 2, HPS has solicited feedback on proposed school boundary maps, facility improvements at Sullivan Middle School, and how to ease transitions for students and families. Phase 2 decisions, which will be announced on December 2, include:

  • The exact boundary lines for each school
  • The process and timing by which any displaced students will be assigned to a specific program
  • The school placement appeals (aka zone appeals) process and timing
  • The list of requested upgrades to Sullivan Middle School, Metcalf and STEM
  • The date that impacted staff will be notified of their new school assignment (which will be December 16 after school ends for the day).

Those decisions will be announced December 2. The following information was previously released:

  • October 28, 2022: Which schools are elementary vs. middle in 2023 and 2026, the school leader of each in 2023, and the location of dual language programming
  • October 28, 2022: The process for reassignment of impacted staff
  • November 10, 2022: PreK and Special Education program locations
  • November 18, 2022: Leadership decisions for elementary and middle schools

Previously announced Phase 1 decisions

  • Beginning in fall 2023, Sullivan will be a middle school. Kelly and Donahue will remain elementary schools. 
  • Dual language programming (DL) will be at E.N. White (full DL), Kelly (partial DL), and Sullivan Middle (partial DL). 
  • The proposed feeder pattern and zone map can be found here. The schools’ grade configurations can be found here.

This new path forward combines elements of all three rezoning scenarios that HPS publicly presented this fall. Most people who took the survey and participated in community conversations preferred the Sullivan Middle Scenario due to the location, facility, and other factors. However, many people raised important points that HPS took into consideration to further strengthen that scenario. 

When comparing the original and revised Sullivan Middle scenarios, you may notice that the new scenario:

  • Has the all-school dual language program at E.N. White. This allows for stronger dual language programming in later elementary since E.N. White has PreK-5 dual language programming now and also maintains more choice for Kelly families, who can choose between dual language or traditional monolingual programming.
  • Has an even stronger balance of demographics between the two long-term middle schools: Sullivan and Peck. (Remember, students who will eventually go to Peck will be split between Holyoke STEM and Metcalf Middle until 2026 or 2027, while we try to build a new Peck building.)
  • Draws school boundary lines in a way that allows for more walkers at the majority of elementary schools and allows more students who live close to Peck school to attend Peck, which will be especially important if and when a new middle school is built.

Additional resources:

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.

What’s the timeline for middle school building changes

Fall 2023

  • Sullivan is now a middle school
  • 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. In the meantime, students who would be at Peck will instead be at Metcalf Middle and Holyoke STEM.

Fall 2026 or Fall 2027

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

Phase 1 Printed Resources

Phase 1 Recorded Resources

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

Phase 1: We solicited input on three scenarios, with a focus on discussing which school should be the second middle school. On October 28, 2022, we announced: 

  • which schools will be elementary and which will be 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: With Phase 1 completed, we are now soliciting 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.