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WELLESLEY

Wellesley may redistrict schools

By Lisa Keen
Globe Correspondent / November 9, 2008
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Wellesley is once again considering the need to redraw the map for its elementary schools for many of the same reasons other towns have looked in that direction.

Ruth Quinn Berdell, the district's business manager, told the School Committee during her annual report on enrollment that the system "will likely have to do some targeted redistricting."

Berdell said the redistricting appears to be necessary because enrollment figures indicate some of the town's seven elementary schools will continue to grow over the next two to three years. But the town has considered redistricting to address budget pressures, too.

In 2004, the School Committee took the idea of redistricting off the table after less than a month of active consideration. At the time, Suzy Littlefield, the School Committee's chairwoman, said that early feedback from parents indicated little support for the idea. But in March, the town's Advisory Committee warned that any hope of finding "substantial" budget savings would require consideration of redistricting.

Berdell stopped short of calling for redistricting, saying instead that officials would "continue to monitor" the student populations of individual schools before making any decision.

Littlefield said the School Committee would look at targeted redistricting, which involves only a few schools, rather than revamping the attendance maps for the entire town.

Targeted redistricting would focus on those elementary schools that have been hit particularly hard with enrollment increases. At the top of the list is Fiske Elementary, where this year's enrollment is more than 8 percent higher than last year's. Sprague, the town's newest elementary school, saw a 6 percent jump in the past year, as did Hardy.

"When the school opened in 2002," said Susan Clapham, copresident of the Sprague Parent Teacher Organization,"we had 323 students. October's enrollment report showed the population there is now 420, a 30 percent increase in six years."

Littlefield said redistricting is unlikely to be implemented before next year.

But budget cutbacks have forced the issue elsewhere in the state.

Earlier this year, Beverly closed one of its elementary schools due to budget problems, forcing redistricting of students to the remaining schools. Pembroke, facing concerns over class size, moved 175 students at one elementary school this year.

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