By Janet Bear
Did you know that our district has grown by more than 650 students since 2010, and that the Chatsworth Avenue and Murray Avenue Elementary Schools are at full capacity? Dr. Robert Shaps, Superintendent of the Mamaroneck School District, spoke at the Larchmont/Mamaroneck Local Summit breakfast presentation, on December 19th, about the enrollment and space challenges facing the district and the opportunities they present.
After providing data to show that increased enrollment and space constraints exist throughout the district, Dr. Shaps described some of the possible solutions that have been discussed. These include increasing class size (currently we are on the high side for Westchester), adding modular classrooms (a capital expense with limited space available for their placement), re-districting the elementary schools, building additional wings or another school, changing our model to the Princeton Plan (grouping grades in different schools) or moving our pre-K and Kindergarten students to another space within the district.
Dr. Shaps went on to explain that rising enrollment and space constraints present an opportunity for the district to prioritize a vision of our public school system for the next 10 to 15 years. Working with Heidi Hayes Jacobs, a nationally renowned curriculum expert and author of “Bold Moves”, the district is re-visiting the current instructional model, and the ways students learn. The successful school of the future may look quite different from today. This is an exciting time and Dr. Shaps reminded us that if we can think beyond bricks and mortar, we have the opportunity to re-invent our system to insure our students are successful into the future.
Audience responses included: concern regarding the impact of the proposed federal tax changes on future enrollment; the need to understand the implications for transportation, traffic and student safety when considering the options; and amidst the new proposals, the desire to retain our current strengths, whether it be our diversity, strong technology or other special programs. Dr Shaps stated that it would continue to be crucial to provide a strong public school system - it’s about value.
What are the next steps? The Board of Education will be forming a task force committed to addressing the issue of growing enrollment and insuring a strong, vibrant educational system for our community. Dr. Shaps reminded us that our vision for the future should drive our actions, not enrollment and space constraints. Early next year, look for more information from the Board of Education regarding the development of this task force and the need for a broad cross section of community input and participation.
This breakfast forum was hosted by the Larchmont/Mamaroneck Local Summit, an informal community council that seeks to make life better for all in the tri-municipal area. Its monthly meetings are held at the Nautilus Diner in Mamaroneck at 7:45 a.m., on the third Tuesday of the month.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, January 16 when the Summit will host George Latimer, the newly elected Executive of Westchester County.