Ward 3 Neighborhood Association: Statement of Support for Bridge Street Elementary School

We are pleased to relay the following statement recently approved by the board of the Ward 3 Neighborhood Association:

Statement of Support for Bridge Street Elementary School

In light of the recent discussion by City Officials concerning the possible closing of a Northampton elementary school, the Board of the Ward 3 Neighborhood Association would like it to be known that we strongly value and support the continued vitality of our neighborhood school, Bridge Street Elementary. As a school, Bridge Street Elementary greatly contributes to the overall vitality and health of Ward 3.

Not only do we greatly value Bridge Street’s considerable academic achievement, we value the school for its role in our community as a hub for neighborhood social and civic activities.

Furthermore, in light of this relationship, we strongly support the on-going vitality of all Northampton neighborhood schools for the breadth of activities they offer and the sense of community they provide.

We are committed to working with the City to find long-term solutions to keep all our neighborhood schools open.

–Ward 3 Neighborhood Association
9 September 2008

See also:

Bridge Street School Website
The proximity of the Bridge Street School to downtown Northampton allows for a variety of school-community activities including walking field trips to local businesses, historical sites, nursing homes and municipal offices, and collaborative efforts with area colleges.

Northampton School Committee Minutes of August 14, 2008 (PDF)
REPORT: Strategic Planning Committee: Mayor Higgins and Ms. Hartry introduced Mr. William Allen, a consultant from Future Management Systems. They then introduced those members of the Strategic Planning Committee who were present. The twenty-five members of committee include representatives from the schools and the wider community, a parent and a teacher from each school, and two administrators… Mr. Tom Riddell, Mr. Jim Dostal and Ms. Gwen Agna were present from the committee. Mr. Allen spoke about the goals and the process of the committee. He described it as an ambitious and timely process, the group will focus on identifying future goals for NPS for the next 5 years. Focus Group meetings will include members from every constituency in the community; two focus groups will be by invitation, and one will be an open forum.

The group will present its recommendations to the School Committee by Dec 15. In response to a question from Ms. Minnick, Mr. Allen talked about how data would be collected and collated. The committee will look at performance data, development data, and demographics. They will look at the beliefs, values, and assumptions about education in the district. They will bring these responses together to shape realistic goals to adopt and pursue, always bearing in mind what is best for the students of NPS. Mayor Higgins asked Mr. Allen to share the interesting statistic that in 1964 80% [of] households in Northampton had children in schools system, now only 20% of household have children in system.

Closing Bridge Street School Contradicts Smart Growth Goals (3/19/08)
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).

On page 11 of the Sustainable Northampton Plan, Land Use objective number 5 states:

Locate housing within walking distances along safe paths, or with
bicycle access, to and from neighborhood commercial areas, parks and
recreation, schools, and public transportation.

On page 51, one metric of progress is “Percent of children able to walk to school”.

It is well known that mothers of young children are heavy users of cars…

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…

Boston Globe: “Walk-to-school movement afoot across Mass.” (9/19/08)
This so-called walking school bus is part of a new citywide campaign
this fall that mirrors a growing effort across the state to encourage
children to walk to school instead of hitching a ride with their

Just persuading students to put one foot in front of the other,
advocates say, could dramatically reduce school traffic jams, slim
children’s waistlines, and help relieve school budgets of some
gas-guzzling buses. And high prices at the gas pump might just jolt
parents into giving it a try…

Just 15 percent of students today make the trip by foot, compared with
42 percent four decades ago, according to the US Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention…

NEAT Bulletin: “Phenomenal” outpouring from community headed off school closing (4/7/08)
The Superintendent described the outpouring from the community as “phenomenal” and made clear that this decision was largely influenced by all of our hard work.

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.

“Back to School for Planners”
(Fall 2004 issue of Planning Commissioners Journal)
…the trend towards mega schools continues despite widespread
agreement among researchers that the size of most U.S. schools is too
large. A growing body of research has shown that “student achievement
in small schools is at least equal and often superior to achievement in
large schools.” A higher percentage of students, across all
socio-economic levels, are successful when they are part of smaller,
more intimate learning communities… Security improves and violence
decreases, as does student alcohol and drug abuse.

assumption that larger schools are most cost-effective has also been
questioned. In a 1998 review of research literature, Mary Anne Raywid
of Hofstra University concluded, “When viewed on a
cost-per-student-enrolled basis, they [small schools] are somewhat more
expensive. But when examined on the basis of the number of students
they graduate, they are less expensive than either medium-sized or
large high schools.”

…Cities are combining school
revitalization funding with other municipal investments, using schools
as a key component in efforts to stabilize entire neighborhoods…

travel to school can represent 10-15 percent of morning rush hour motor
vehicle trips in many areas, the choice of school location and design
affects traffic congestion and air quality as well as having
implications for school transportation budgets. And, as concern mounts
about the amount of physical activity school children get, many school
districts, planners, and parents want to provide as many children as
possible with the option to walk safely to school…

Schools contribute to the economic life and vitality of their
neighborhoods. When a community lacks a school, fewer new residents
move there and property values decline. The buying power of the school
district and its employees, and the purchases students, parents, and
community members make in businesses located around the school, can be

Schools located at a distance from the
community’s center force people to use buses and automobiles,
increasing air pollution and dependence on fossil fuels… schools are
“the advance scouts for sprawl”…

Schools bring together people
from all ages in a wide range of activities and function as centers of
the community. When schools close, this connection is severed.
Residents of eight small towns in North Dakota that had lost their
school rated their quality of life significantly lower than residents
of towns that had retained their school.

“Why Johnny Can’t Walk to School: Historic Neighborhood Schools in the Age of Sprawl”
(National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2nd edition, 2002, PDF)
Smaller, human-scaled institutions are easier to fit
into existing neighborhoods. They are also easier for community
residents to relate to than behemoth-sized institutions…

the movement of post offices and other public buildings from downtowns
to outlying commercial strips, the migration of schools from settled
neighborhoods to middle-of-nowhere locations is one more factor
weakening the ties that once brought people together. And like
residential or commercial sprawl, “school sprawl” is contributing to
the dismemberment of communities across the country…

in-town neighborhoods whose viability is enhanced or even sustained by
the presence of a school fear losing the “glue” that holds them

…Ann Clancy, former president of the Broadwater School PTA [in
Montana], pointed out that city residents have already seen first-hand
the ill effects that a school’s closing can have on a neighborhood.
After an older school in Billings’ North Park area closed several years
ago, the surrounding area declined…

…If a school’s huge size and auto-orientation dictate an edge-of-town
location, the school is more likely to be surrounded by a large parking
lot than by a human-scaled neighborhood…

“Dollars & Sense: The Cost Effectiveness of Small Schools”
(KnowledgeWorks Foundation, 2002)
…ideal upper limits of “small size”
for schools with conventionally wide grade spans are as

  • High schools (9-12): 75 students per grade level
    (300 total enrollment)
  • Middle schools (5-8): 50 students per grade level
    (200 total enrollment)
  • Elementary schools (1-8): 25 students per grade level
    (200 total enrollment)
  • Elementary schools (1-6): 25 students per grade level
    (150 total enrollment).

…The research about the value of smaller schools shows that
small schools are safer schools and better places for
students to work with adults who know them and whom
they trust (Barker & Gump, 1964; Wasley, 2000; Cotton,
2001). Small schools graduate a higher percentage of
students. Students drop out of small schools at lower rates
than they do from large schools, and more students who
graduate from small schools go on to post-secondary
education than do their counterparts who graduate from large schools. There is less violence in small schools, less
vandalism, a heightened sense of belonging, and better
attendance. Students earn higher grade point averages,
and more participate in extracurricular activities. There is
greater teacher satisfaction in small schools than there is
in large schools. Members
of the community
including parents and
other relatives are more
involved with the life of
small schools than are
their counterparts in large
schools–for the same
reasons as their children
(Cotton, 2001)…

At least one study spotlights the mechanisms by which
small schools become more effective than large schools.
Lee and Smith (1994) used data from the National
Educational Longitudinal Study (1994) to show that
small schools increased teacher collaboration and team
teaching. Lee and Smith report that “large size and fragmented
human contact complicate the management of
[large] schools, which elevates the importance of formal
rules to regulate behavior. The environment in comprehensive
high schools is therefore less human” (p. 2)…

Adding up the costs and weighing them
against the benefits shows that small schools not only are
better places in which to educate children, but that large
schools themselves actually create significant diseconomies…

[Funk & Bailey, 1999 research report:]
By two important measures of student outcome, smaller
schools in Nebraska generally perform better than larger
ones. The additional input cost of supporting students in
smaller schools needs to be weighed against their more
positive educational outcomes. The so-called inefficiencies
of small schools are greatly reduced when calculated
on the basis of cost per graduate, and virtually disappear
when the substantial social costs of non-graduates and
the societal impact of college-educated citizens are considered
(p. 3).

Both the Nebraska study and its counterpart
in New York show that, measuring by the cost of
a graduate, small schools are good financial and educational

While it may be true that in small schools some costs
increase because they are spread out over fewer students,
research suggests that large schools require added tiers of
administration, more security people, and additional
maintenance and operations personnel. The reason for
this may be that in large schools more students feel alienated
from the life of the school and some vent their anger
in inappropriate or violent behavior. Therefore, it takes
more paid professionals per student to deal with the negative
effects of alienation in a large school than in a small
one, where people know each other better…

Students who spend less time on the
bus are able to spend more time with family and friends, in
community activities, and even on homework. Involvement
with their families and communities is a no-cost benefit of
smaller schools that helps students to live better and richer
lives, and to connect more fully with their school as well
(Beaumont & Pianca, 2000; Howley & Howley, 2001)…

The closure of a school can be particularly hard
on retail stores. Sales
from students and teachers
evaporate, while
parents do more of their
shopping near their children’s
new school…

When schools and other
services move out, downtown commerce invariably suffers
as more of the community’s activity shifts to the fringe.
Residential subdivisions and chain store sprawl soon
follow, eliminating open space and increasing traffic
congestion, and further undermining the community’s
historic center…

Without a local school, both small
towns and urban neighborhoods will be unable to attract
young families. Out-migration will increase. Researchers William Dreier and Willis Goudy (1991) found that a
larger number of Midwestern towns that had lost their
schools to consolidation were losing population and
at a faster rate than those towns that had maintained
their local school. As population falls, home values drop
and businesses struggle. Once this spiral of disinvestment
and decline begins, it can be very difficult to turn around…

Schools anchor and unify communities by bringing
residents of all ages and backgrounds together for a
variety of activities and services. Schools often double
as community and cultural centers…

Perhaps more than any
other institution,
schools are responsible
for a sense of community
and collective
identity. Local schools
educate generations of
friends, family, and
neighbors, providing a
shared experience and continuity from one generation to the next. Local schools
have much to do with a community’s sense of its own