Elementary School Placement for Stratton Fourth Graders
Dear Superintendent Bodie and the Arlington School Committee:
We are parents of current Stratton second graders. Our children will be fourth graders during the relocation year of 2016-17. We are very much looking forward to being a part of the renovated Stratton and being active in maintaining our vibrant school community during the relocation year. We are grateful for the hard work of the committee and the building committee in coming up with the best plan for the Stratton building.
However, we are very concerned with the plan to relocate our fourth grade children to the already over capacity Ottoson Middle School. Specifically, we request that you increase the number of modular classrooms at Bishop School to accommodate three Stratton grades and keep two grades at Hardy School. By increasing the number of modular classrooms at Bishop by two and using their computer lab space for the school year an additional grade can be accommodated.
The benefits of this alternative for the fourth grade students include:
· Greater parity with the relocation experiences of their Stratton counterparts and with other Arlington students who were relocated during rebuilding projects. No other school has been asked to use modular classrooms. No other younger grades or students have been asked to go to a middle school campus.
· Opportunity for outdoor physical activity, including a playstructure appropriate for nine and ten year olds
· Having an elementary school experience, with the look and feel of an elementary school building and age appropriate gym, library, art and music facilities
· Access to elementary school staff (social worker, nurse, principal, secretary) who specialize in their age group
· Connection with an elementary school community and community events
· The ability to enjoy the benefits of a school outside of their modular spaces. The Ottoston capacity issue would dictate that the Stratton students housed there would spend the vast majority of their time (including special classes, lunch time and indoor recess) in their classroom. The Ottoson gyms, cafeteria, art & music room will be at full capacity accommodating the 6th-8th graders. The middle school students will get scheduling priority meaning the younger grades would have compromised physical education time, especially during the winter months.
· Fourth grade teachers would have planning time in their classroom while students were at recess, lunch and in special classrooms
· Opportunities to mentor in younger grades (book buddies, etc)
In addition to being in the best interest of the fourth graders, this would also improve the situation at Ottoson for the sixth, seventh and eighth graders and the Stratton fifth graders.
Based on the enrollment projections from October 8, 2014 Ottoson will have 1,273 students in 2016-2017. This is an additional 166 students (a 15% increase) from the current school year population. The plan to add another approximately 136 Stratton 4th and 5th graders would bring the number of students sharing the facility to 1,409 a 27% increase from the 2014-2015 school population.
· Ottoson does not have the scheduling resources for another 136 children to have time in the cafeteria, specialist classrooms, gym, etc. By moving the fourth grade this would cut the burden in half. For example, at projected enrollment there will be twelve clusters rotating into the two gyms, with 7 periods per day that leaves them available for Stratton students for only one period per day.
· Ottoson would still have six modular classrooms, only three of which would be needed for Stratton's fifth grade. Three classrooms would be available to the already over-crowded Ottoson in fall 2016 or to give the 5th grade the additional space they will need for lunch, art, music.
· The already inevitable 15% enrollment jump will worsen an already poor traffic situation on Acton Street and other streets that surround the school. Cutting the number of additional Stratton students and the respective busses in half will reduce the traffic impact to the neighbors, nearby businesses, parents, and faculty. More importantly, it will reduce the dangers of this congestion to the hundreds of middle school walkers in the area each morning and afternoon.
We recognize that there are financial considerations when making a request of this nature. In the Stratton Final Feasibility Report (page 25) the line item for modular classrooms is $400,000. This represents 18 modular units at an average cost of ~ $22,000 per unit. Given that the Bishop and Hardy modulars are designed to be temporary they are likely lower cost compared to the Ottoson modulars. This means that, at most, adding two modulars to Bishop School would represent around $40,000 or less than 0.4% of the total rebuilding budget of $10.3 million. Given the considerations listed above we think this is well worth the increase in cost in a project of this scope and this impact on Stratton students, especially the fourth grade.