At Bridge Street School tonight, Mayor Clare Higgins and School
Superintendent Isabelina Rodriguez-Babcock presented Northampton’s FY2009 budget and a list of expense reductions now being considered for the city’s public schools. Ward 3 City Councilor Robert Reckman hosted the presentation. About 100 citizens attended, as did Councilors-At-Large James Dostal and Michael Bardsley.
Mayor Higgins expressed disappointment that reporters from local newspapers did not appear to be covering the event, the first in a series of budget presentations to the city’s wards.
You may download the Mayor’s handouts as a PDF (6 pages, 199KB). We have also reproduced two key pages below.
Superintendent Rodriguez-Babcock said the school system aims to present its recommendations to the Mayor by the end of April. It is possible they will recommend the closure of Bridge Street School. Some members in the audience felt that making such a major and hard-to-reverse decision in such a short time was hasty.
Whatever recommendations are made, we hope the School Committee will consider if they will increase costs elsewhere. Specifically, if Bridge Street School is closed, it is probable that bus and car trips will surge as neighborhood students need to be transported to schools farther away. In effect, some of the city’s cost savings will result in higher costs at the household level, along with increased pollution and time lost to travel.
Closing Bridge Street School Contradicts Smart Growth Goals
Due to Northampton’s looming budget shortfall,
it has been widely reported that Bridge Street Elementary School is at
risk of closing. We appreciate that the closure could save $400,000,
but it goes against some of the better goals of the Sustainable Northampton Plan,
which include getting people out of their cars and encouraging them to
live downtown through amenities (as opposed to coercing them with laws)…
Officials cite declining enrollment as a reason to consider closing the Bridge Street School (Gazette,
3/13/08). However, the Sustainable Northampton Plan envisions
accommodating “the vast majority of new smart growth residential
development” within Northampton’s Traditional Neighborhood and Receiving Zone, which precisely characterizes the Bridge Street neighborhood.
If Sustainable Northampton achieves its goals, it seems likely that Bridge Street School enrollments will rise…
Education World: “Are Smaller Schools Better Schools?” (7/20/00)
The researchers found that student achievement was greater in the small
schools than in the larger schools. Students, parents, teachers, and
community volunteers reported greater satisfaction because they felt
more connected to one another, Wasley told Education World…
Although a variety of factors affect student achievement, the greatest
factor was the reduction of anonymity — going to a school where
someone knows you and your name. Being known by your teachers and peers
makes a difference, Wasley noted…