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The public responds

The Liverpool school board held a special meeting last Thursday night so that the public could hear consultants' recommendations regarding the elementary/middle school grade reconfiguration study. And the public came out in force to hear it, packing the auditorium of Chestnut Hill Middle School.

Before the presentation by Castallo and Silky Consultants, Board President Mark Lawson explained the reasons for undertaking the study.

"We're not doing as well as we could [at the middle school level]," Lawson said. "We appointed a future planning committee two years ago, and they suggested that we could address our goals by reconfiguring middle level education."

With the aid of an advisory committee compiled of teachers, administrators, board members and members of the community, Castallo and Silky researched the options and selected what they thought would be best for the district. They presented those results at the Sept. 25 school board meeting.

"There's no painless way to do a reconfiguration," Lawson said. "There are always costs. We need to determine if the costs outweigh the benefits or the other way around . Please listen to the proposal with an open mind. We can't make a decision that will affect all the children in this district based on feelings."

The presentation

Dr. Lucy Martin of Castallo and Silky presented the group's findings. First, the options were narrowed down to three possibilities: keeping the current configuration; moving to a K-5 elementary, 6-8 middle; or moving to a K-4 elementary, 5-8 middle. After a yearlong study, they opted for the K-5/6-8 configuration.

"It's educationally sound," Martin said. "We felt that three years in a building is better than two. Middle school students don't have enough time in two years to be comfortable with their teachers and their surroundings."

Martin noted other reasons that this configuration was considered to be educationally sound: it could promote academic rigor, provide additional support for students in need and lengthen the transition from elementary school to high school.

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