After months of public discussion, the West Hempstead Union Free School District Board of Education unanimously approved a restructuring plan at its Jan. 30 meeting. In response to student enrollment declining in the district, the sixth grade will be relocated from West Hempstead Middle School to an intermediate school with grades four through six.
“I see the possibilities of creating a strong intermediate program that really prepares our kids for those two other years of middle school,” Superintendent Patricia Sullivan-Kriss said at the meeting. “In the middle school setting, I see us being able to provide more opportunities for our students to actually gain high school credits.”
Sullivan-Kriss also said that she and Daniel Rehman, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, spent the last few weeks meeting with teachers from both of the district’s elementary schools to discuss the restructuring plan.
“I wouldn’t say that everyone was relaxed when they left the room,” Sullivan-Kriss said, “but I’m hoping that there was a better understanding on their part as to the rationale and the fact that we’re really doing this to look at what we provide to our children.”
She added that while some teachers admitted that the approved plan — which is to take effect in September — made them nervous, students are also concerned. “We do have some children that are more frail than others in terms of dealing with transition,” Sullivan-Kriss said. “It really touches all of the children within the system, and we know we need to be sensitive to that and set up transition-type programs to address those needs.”
Board of Education President Karen Brohm said that since the district introduced this plan at a public forum in November, board trustees hope that it addressed any questions and concerns parents had.
“We really did try to outreach as best as we could to do these [forums] in large school settings,” Brohm said, “so that more people would be present, as opposed to the six or seven people that might attend a board meeting.”
Some parents said they worried about how the plan would impact the district’s 2018-19 budget. The main cost associated with the transition, the board explained, is adding another bus, for around $66,000.
Other concerns included whether services for Special Education and English as a New Language students would be provided for students who are moving to a different school. Sullivan-Kriss assured parents that the district would continue to provide those services, and that the board would strengthen its enrichment programs as well.
“We’ve done our research, we’ve had multiple meetings, and I think this is a proper way to restructure,” Board of Education Trustee Vincent Trocchia said.
“We realize that change is never easy,” Sullivan-Kriss said, “but [we’re] confident that our students will make a seamless transition with the support of our valued staff.”
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