HPS releases details of Phase 2 rezoning decisions
Holyoke Public Schools has concluded Phase 2 of a six-month rezoning planning process that will allow the district to transition to separate elementary (PK-5) and middle (6-8) schools and redraw school boundary lines for fall 2023.
Final Phase 2 rezoning decisions were shared with HPS families, staff, and community partners on Friday, December 2, along with a recap of Phase 1 and initial Phase 2 decisions previously released in October and November.
“These are important, well thought-out changes that will improve the educational experiences of all students in the long run and provide greater equity,” said Superintendent Anthony Soto in a letter to HPS families and staff last week. “It’s taken six months of research and planning, more than 45 public meetings, three surveys, and lots of conversations with countless stakeholders during 60+ school and community events to develop these decisions.”
While Holyoke Public Schools released a great deal of information on December 2, families and staff were primarily interested in details of two key areas:
- Where individual children will be assigned to attend school next year; and
- Where individual staff members will be assigned to work next year.
HPS provided this fact sheet to help families understand school assignments. The district will also send individualized letters detailing next year’s school assignment to every student’s home by the end of January. HPS informed staff last week that any employees impacted by rezoning will be notified of their new school assignment, job classification, and position after school on Friday, December 16.
Additional Phase 2 rezoning decisions announced on December 2 include:
- The exact boundary lines and zone maps for each elementary and middle schools;
- The Zone Appeal process for families who may wish to request a different school assignment; and
- Upgrades planned at the middle schools.
Holyoke Public Schools previously released the following information:
- 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 team decisions for elementary and middle schools
HPS will continue to add information to the district’s website, including a Frequently Asked Questions document that will be released by mid December.
Navigating the changes ahead
During the November 21 meeting of the HPS School Committee, Holyoke Mayor and School Committee Chair Joshua Garcia commended Holyoke Public Schools for following good governance throughout the rezoning process—and for both inviting and welcoming Holyoke families, staff, and community members to ask questions and provide essential feedback that helped shape final decisions.
Rezoning, although crucial for improving educational programs and outcomes for students, brings with it a wide range of disruptive changes that will likely affect a majority of Holyoke families and staff members, Superintendent Soto has said many times. Throughout the process, he and other district leaders have acknowledged that change is hard, even when the changes are for the better.
Vice Chair Mildred Lefebvre said during the November 21 School Committee meeting that change is best navigated when a community is united. “Rezoning is now dividing us,” she said, “and rather than divide us it needs to start bringing us together. Not just as staff but also our kids. They need to see us standing united.”
Superintendent Soto agrees.
“We need to come together and embrace this new path forward,” he said in his December 2 letter to families and staff about the latest rezoning decisions. “We’ve heard over and over and over again since 2015 that our community first and foremost wants separate elementary and middle schools to provide stronger and better aligned educational programs. Rezoning is the only way to get us there—through redrawn school boundary lines that balance enrollment and demographics across our schools and especially across our middle schools. We heard from our kindergarten families that they don’t want their young children to ride buses with middle schoolers. And we’ve heard from families of older students that they want their children to have a real middle school experience. Rezoning accomplishes all of this, and much more.”