Fiegel Elementary to Close, Gallimore to Remain Open
Board approves just one of two school closures recommended by district.
Both schools faced closure in a Tuesday meeting at Discovery Middle School in Canton after months of considering a variety of realignment plans in the district to make room for all-day kindergarten in 2012-13, save money and make best use of district buildings' available classroom space.
The proposed closures would have had a far-reaching impact on the district, with district lines mostly redrawn to shift students to different elementary and middle schools. Plans presented to the community at a series of public forums showed new proposed district lines if the board voted to close both Fiegel and Gallimore.
Closing both schools would have saved the district an estimated $1.7 million in 2012-13 and $2.35 million in 2013-14.
The board voted 6-1 to close Fiegel. Board Vice President Adrienne Davis cast the lone dissenting vote.
"Cost savings and consolidation should not be the largest factor in a school closure," Davis said.
Barry Simescu, who had voted against closing Fiegel in 2011, said that while he opposed closing the school last year, he felt it was necessary to close Fiegel this year, given its cost savings and under-utilized classroom space.
Trustees Mark Horvath and Mike Maloney were the only board members who voted in support of closing Gallimore.
"I think that’s best for us in terms of our long-term fiscal health," Maloney said of closing Gallimore. He said if cost savings don't come from closing the school, they could come elsewhere, either by cutting teachers or programs.
Other board members had reservations, though.
"I am concerned about closing Gallimore," board member Sheila Paton said. "I believe very strongly we need space to expand our programs."
Paton said she didn't feel the proposal to close Gallimore offered the ability to expand programming.
Vote leaves boundary questions
For administrators, it's now back to the drawing board. Phil Freeman, the district's assistant superintendent for facilities and operations, said the district had several contingency plans in place in case the board rejected one or both closures.
Administrators will work on a new district map that reflects the closing of just Fiegel, and the board will look to use its April 3 board meeting to discuss new proposed boundaries.
Superintendent Jeremy Hughes said public comment would be available at this meeting after the new maps are proposed, as board and audience members both would be seeing the maps for the first time.
Starkweather program to move to Fiegel
Board members unanimously voted to move Starkweather Alternative High School into the Fiegel building.
"(Starkweather) is the only option for many kids, the only setting in which they can thrive and either move onto jobs, military or college," board member Judy Mardigian said. She said the new space will eliminate the school's waiting lists and provide a lower overhead price and more amenities, such as a cafeteria, for students.
Starkweather currently sits in a building in Plymouth's Old Village that was erected in the 1920s and lacks modern amenities. A school-of-choice institution, Starkweather can accept students from neighboring districts who might need the alternative education program. Hughes said the program could grow by as many as 50 students in 2012-13.
Hughes said the district would look for someone to buy the Starkweather property.
Board votes to implement Young Fives, pursue International Baccalaureate
Board members also unanimously voted to implement a Young Fives program at Plymouth-Canton in 2012-13 for students with later birthdays. Hughes said additional space, if available, could be filled with students whose parents are seeking a half-day kindergarten option.
The board also voted to pay a $4,000 application fee for the district to pursue the International Baccalaureate diploma program, an option available at several neighboring districts, at Plymouth-Canton Educational Park.