LEWISTON — After months of hearings, phone calls, emails and letters, a decision is expected Monday night on whether to redistrict 223 Lewiston elementary school students in the fall.
The School Committee will hear the final recommendations from the Redistricting Committee at a meeting set for 6:45 p.m. at Lewiston High School.
The School Committee, which has yet to publicly discuss the plan, is expected to debate and then vote on redistricting. While the committee has not yet debated the plan, some members have voiced support or opposition.
Redistricting Committee Chairman Jim Handy favors the plan. School Committee member Sonia Taylor, who with her husband operates an inner-city ministry for children, is opposed.
As proposed, 223 students at Montello, McMahon and Geiger, about 7 percent of the city's elementary students, would be moved. Some 131 downtown students would move to McMahon and Geiger; 92 Geiger students from middle-class neighborhoods would move to Montello.
In a recent letter given to the School Committee, Montello parent Erica Theriault urged members to support the plan "for the greater good." Montello's ratio of English language learners (children who are learning to read, write and speak English) is too high, and children at Montello are suffering, she said.
While opponents have said they want to preserve neighborhood schools, Montello is not reflective of the neighborhoods that surround it, she wrote. Like her family, many Montello families are middle class.
"My husband and I own a home," Theriault wrote. "We are not on welfare. We work, and we pay taxes. The only way to maintain the integrity of all our neighborhood schools is for each to draw from the downtown area."
Geiger parent Robert Strong has recommended alternative proposals. One of his plans would move 87 downtown Montello students to McMahon. That, Strong said, would lighten the teacher load at Montello, avoid trading students from one school to another and would not move students to lower-testing schools.
He and others have complained that the Redistricting Committee's proposal is dividing the community, that officials have lost credibility with parents and that the plan up for a vote is "flawed."
Superintendent Bill Webster has said redistricting is being proposed for two reasons. First, to reduce classroom size in all schools because enrollment is growing each year and schools are at or near capacity. Ten new classrooms will become available at McMahon this fall.
The second reason is to better spread the number of poorer students and those learning to speak English so that the percentages represent the overall city averages at more schools. That would improve opportunities for all students, Webster has said.
Montello now has 37 percent of English language learner students, compared to the city average of 23 percent. The plan gives Montello 24 percent ELL; Geiger would have 19 percent, up from 14 percent; and McMahon would have 24 percent, up from 15 percent.
Students in grades four through six and their siblings would be able to stay at their current schools, and transportation would be provided for two years. Parents would be able to ask Webster for permission for their students to attend the same or different schools.