Parents in town turned out in force for the school committee meeting on Wednesday, June 4, to voice their opinions about plans to reconfigure the town’s school district.
The meeting, held in Sandwich High School’s media center, was standing-room-only and an overflow area was set up in the library to accommodate additional people.
Wednesday’s meeting was the last scheduled meeting before the committee’s vote on the subject, which will take place at the June 25 meeting.
Two scenarios are being considered once the STEM Academy opens at the high school and the Henry T. Wing School is closed. The first scenario would turn both the Forestdale and Oak Ridge into K-6 schools. The second would create one pre-K-2 school and one 3-6 school. Superintendent C. Richard Canfield is a proponent of the proposed the pre-K-2, 3-6 format.
The parents who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting were strongly in favor of the K-6 schools.
Several parents stated their desire to bring the issue to a townwide vote. “We voted on the pool, we voted on the window sills, we should vote on this,” said Erin Greenhalgh, a parent whose three children attended school in the current K-8 model.
Forestdale parent Gregg Richards had a similar concern. “It should be deferred to a public vote and it needs to be,” Mr. Richards said. “We voted on trash bags and we can’t vote on where our kids go to school?”
School committee co-chairman Andrea M. Killion responded to these concerns, saying that she had brought the question to the attorney for the committee.
According to her, his response was that the issue of grade alignment was not one that should be deferred to the public and moreover was not an issue that they could legally hand over control of.
“We are under statute by law as your representatives to vote on this issue,” Ms. Killion said, citing Massachusetts General Law Chapter 71, Section 37.
Parents were also concerned that the pre-K-2, 3-6 format would result in overly large class sizes. “City-sized schools are not why we moved to Sandwich,” said Dennis Cook.
Keeping siblings together in one school was an issue that concerned parents as well. “Why shouldn’t I have all three of my children together at one school at one time?” asked Mr. Richards. “That’s why we live here.”
Mr. Richards had concerns specifically involving students who are currently attending the Henry T. Wing School, some of whom will be transitioning from Wing to Forestdale to Oak Ridge within the span of three years if the K-6 configuration is not voted on.
Beth Cummings-Oman, president of the Forestdale PTA, expressed concern that there would not be sufficient time between now and June 25 for the new committee members to come to an informed decision on the matter.
The chosen configuration will go into effect once the Wing School is closed in 2015, which for some parents is where the decision process started to go wrong.
“The error in this process started back in January when the decision to close the Wing school was dictated rather than examined as a process,” Laurie Wilkinson of Forestdale said. “None of us like conflict, but we parents who are speaking out are doing so from a strong conviction that this process is missing some important aspects.”
Ms. Killion urged the community to continue to reach out to the committee and to the superintendent and that they have appreciated the respectful e-mails and letters they have received.
School committee member Marie A. Kangas stated the importance of listening to the parents who were speaking and taking their opinions into consideration. “The decision we have to make is not one to be taken lightly,” Ms. Kangas said. “We need to listen to the voices of the people who this decision will affect directly.”