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Peabody panel hears report on benefits of closing elementary school

Posted by Sean Teehan  December 17, 2010 08:19 AM

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A Peabody school redistricting report presented to the School Committee showed the benefits of closing the John E. McCarthy Memorial Elementary School.

The Planning Committee, a subcommittee of the School Committee, presented their report of redistricting and school consolidation at a meeting Tuesday night.

The subcommittee, whose members include school officials, residents, and project engineers, drafted the report after studying the matter since February. The report, the subcommittee said, is meant to be informative and suggests no action.

At the meeting, Mayor Michael J. Bonfanti noted that measures such as redistricting could be necessary across the board in the upcoming budget session.

"We're going to have a tough budget session," Bonfanti said. "I have already had to say to all of our department heads 'plan for a 5 percent decrease from what we had last year.'"

According to the report, the plan could save Peabody $471,000 in one year and $635,000 in two. It could also increase the average class sizes by 1.2 students per class, putting an average of 22 students in each classroom, the report says.

The suggested McCarthy School closing came after the panel investigated models for closing six of the district's eight elementary schools, the report says.

The report called the McCarthy School's closing "the most conservative approach to school consolidation," noting a preschool will likely continue operating in the building, leaving the option to bring grade K-5 back if necessary.

While compiling the report, subcommittee members set their goal as creating class-size equality and making sure district boundaries consider major highways, bridges, and other logistical obstacles, the report says. They also tried to maximize the use of walking paths and attempted to ensure students would not go to a school farther away from their home, if there is a closer one on their route.

The boundaries also sought to promote efficient bus transportation based on student's residences, according to the report. The district may require a new bus, which would cost about $50,000, for the new district boundaries, the report says.


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