Pittsfield School Restructuring Study Survey Opening to Community
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — School officials want to make certain that the entire community has a voice in the Pittsfield Public Schools restructuring process.
With a series of public hearings and an online survey completed, the School Building Needs Commission requested input from people who are not students, parents, or teachers.
Drummey, Rosane, and Anderson (DRA) Architects, the firm conducting the study, will be reformatting the survey to include the general public and will be reopening it for the summer. Once released, there will be outreach to generate as many responses as possible.
School Committee Chair William Cameron said not receiving feedback from a lot of people who may be affected by the process is an "educational and political" issue.
"I'm worried that in some sense, we're poisoning the well of what we are at work doing here and that it would subject us, even if people have been invited and don't participate, to accusations that we're only listening to a certain segment of the community," he said.
"And I don't know what to do about that but it's a concern that I have."
William Travis no longer has a child in the Pittsfield schools and was not able to take the survey, and that he had promoted it to groups that mostly consisted of seniors and they were not able to take it.
Travis asked that the survey is re-advertised so that the perception of non-school community members not participating can be changed.
Kathy Amuso agreed.
"You would have to do some re-education because I went on and I wouldn't go on again because I don't have children in the schools either so it didn't fit my needs," she said.
There were four opportunities for the public to weigh in on the study between in-person, virtual, and multilingual hearings at the end of May and the beginning of June.
A survey generated 416 parent and guardian responses, 385 responses from students Grades 3-12, and 364 responses from teachers.
Morningside Community and Crosby Elementary schools had the lowest responses due to lack of access to computers.
Parents felt that the district's classrooms, gyms, playgrounds, and locations were the best features. Students said the PPS teachers and gym were the best features. Overall, the grounds were given a 6.27 out of ten rating and the safety was given a 6.78 out of ten rating.
Throughout the first stages of public input, some strengths and weaknesses have been identified.
The district's strengths include strong learning environments, a good disbursement of schools throughout the city, long-standing teachers and families, and the fact that students are generally happy with the buildings.
Weaknesses include undesirable support spaces, inadequate playgrounds, buildings that are not fully modernized, and buildings that need renovation.
There were also threats identified, which includes declining enrollment, a feeling that nobody will listen to feedback, a lack of local funding, and people not wanting to be a part of the solution.
According to enrollment data, Pittsfield High School has 663 students with 24 percent of them on individualized education plans and Taconic has 837 students with 20 percent on IEPs. Together, the high schools have 1,500 students and 21 percent are on IEPs.
Herberg Middle School has 488 students with 18 percent on IEPs and Reid Middle School has 458 students with 22 percent on IEPs. Together, the middle schools have 946 students with 20 percent on IEPs.
With the same enrollment and IEP percentage for the elementary schools, Egremont Elementary has the largest population of 346 and Capeless Elementary has the least with 178 students.
"Our next real phase of this is to start thinking about some options here as to, given the data, given the issues that have been identified, what are some of the possible scenarios going forward," DRA representatives Carl Franceschi explained.
Throughout the summer, the committee is asked to consider school locations, travel times, grade alignment, school enrollment sizes, cohort class sizes and the number of transitions, and educational continuity.
DRA's next steps are to reopen the online survey, meet with curriculum leaders, compare the existing building to the Massachusetts School Building Authority guidelines, do a complete demographic and enrollment study, and test fit curriculum and enrollment into existing buildings.
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