Hudson plans first steps toward consolidating schools

HUDSON–Sixth graders will go to the Junior High instead of the Intermediate School starting next year, and second graders will go to the Intermediate School instead of the Primary School starting the following year.

Superintendent Maria Suttmeier announced the changes at the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting Monday, November 9.

Currently the John L. Edwards Primary School holds pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade, the Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School holds grades 3 through 6, and Hudson Junior High School holds 7th and 8th grades.

In the 2016-17 school year that begins for students next September, students in grades 3 to 5 will attend the Intermediate School; students in grades 6 to 8 will attend the Junior High.

Superintendent Suttmeier said the district has already applied to the state for approval for the change affecting the 6th grade and has scheduled conferences with the staff within the next few days.

And starting in the 2016-17 school year, the Primary School will hold pre-kindergarten through first grade. Students in the 2nd through 5th grades will attend the Intermediate School.

In the Junior High building, at least initially, the 6th grade will stay “segregated” from the higher grades in its own section of the building with its own bell schedule. Currently there are 110 students in the 5th grader–next year’s 6th grade class. One challenge to meet is how to manage an increase of about 50% in the number of students who will arrive at the Junior High.

Meanwhile, plans call for refurbishing a wing of the Intermediate School building, which will have fewer students.

The school shift is part of the district’s plan to eventually close and sell the Primary School on State Street. The Hudson district would have only two campuses, each with seven grades. Pre-kindergarten through 5th grade at the Intermediate School and grades 6 through 12 at the Junior/Senior High campus.

“It would make sense to consolidate,” said the superintendent. “We have a declining enrollment.” Currently, she said, the district has about 1,750 students. From the 2009-10 to the 2013-14 school years, the HCSD’s enrollment declined 5.2%, a figure somewhat less than the drop seen by the other five public school districts in the county. In those years, the county’s total public school enrollment shrank by 7.7%. “We’re not falling off a cliff,” the Superintendent said. “But it would be too shortsighted not to look at the possibility of making this a two-campus district.”

She indicated that the school campus realignment makes sense because the 6th grade curriculum focuses on preparing students for the upper grades. In addition, at an earlier meeting she said that, adding the 6th grade would turn the Junior High into a “true middle school.”

Ms. Suttmeier also reported that an architect has determined the Intermediate School building could handle students from pre-kindergarten through 5th grade. But that Mark Brenneman, the Intermediate School principal, said it could not also handle the special services for the youngest children.

“This is not about bricks and mortar,” the superintendent said. “This is about children’s education.”

Closing the Primary School has been under consideration for more than a year. At the November 9 meeting, Superintendent Suttmeier said “We are bursting at the seams at John L,” referring to the Primary School. She indicated that what is cramped there, despite declining enrollment, is parking.

Also at the November 9 meeting, for the third straight board meeting, Hudson resident Maija Reed asked about steps to improve safety at the intersection of Carroll, State, and Fourth streets near the Primary School.

“This week I saw children crossing the street between cars,” she said.

“It’s not just a school district issue, it’s a city issue,” Superintendent Suttmeier said. “I have been in touch with the chief of police. I have spoken about signage. Maybe Carroll Street should be changed from two-way to one-way in that spot. We have talked about reinstating crossing guards. The question is who will provide properly-trained crossing guards. The police used to.”

At an previous meeting, board member Sage Carter said she had spoken to Americorps about using its volunteers as crossing guards; she had also contacted a city official about a sign cautioning motorists.

Ms. Reed was not convinced, saying, “Signs are nice, but they’re just signs. Having someone there is more effective.”

The next Hudson City School Board meeting is Monday, November 23 in the Junior High School library. The meeting will start with a curriculum workshop at 6 p.m., followed by the regular agenda at 7 p.m.

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