Lewiston schools: Packed agenda includes new school site, testing, class sizes

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LEWISTON — The Lewiston School Committee will move its Monday meeting from the Dingley Building to the Council Chambers at City Hall to accommodate an expected larger audience because of three big topics on the agenda.

The 6:45 p.m. meeting will include a vote on the proposed site for a new elementary school; a review of incoming elementary class sizes and whether more teachers should be hired; and a review of tests to be given to students during the upcoming year. 

New school

A Site Selection Committee has proposed the Franklin Pasture Sports Complex at Lewiston High School as the site for a new elementary school that would combine the pupils of Longley and Martel schools.

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The athletic fields would be relocated, blended into a large campus where fields and schools would be connected by sidewalks and paths.

The new school would hold between 800 and 900 pupils. Initially, it was to open in the fall of 2018, but now it probably won’t open until 2019, Superintendent Bill Webster said.

Once the School Committee approves a site, Lewiston residents will vote in a nonbinding straw poll. Following that, approval will be needed from the State Board of Education.

Lewiston has won state funding for the construction, which means local property taxpayers would pay about 5 percent of the new school; the state would pay 95 percent. Typically, an elementary school of that size would cost about $40 million.

The new school will help relieve overcrowding at Martel and Longley, as well as overcrowding in other Lewiston schools.

Class sizes

Webster said that staffing for incoming kindergarten students seemed sufficient in July, but that often more registrations come as the opening day of school nears. School begins this year on Sept. 2.

Last year, parents protested large kindergarten classes of 25 or more pupils, and pointed out that a state regulation dictates the pupil-teacher ratio should be no more than 20-1 for kindergartners. That prompted the Lewiston School Committee to approve hiring more teachers after the school year started.

Testing

A group of Lewiston parents last year objected to the number of standardized tests, concerned that testing was getting in the way of lessons. After trying it themselves, they objected to the state’s controversial new “Smarter Balanced” test, calling it confusing and frustrating. Some parents opted out of the testing, letting principals know their children would not take the tests. About 10 percent opted out.

In the spring, the state Legislature axed the Smarter Balanced assessment, tasking the Department of Education to find a replacement test.

Lewiston administrators decided to reinstate the Northwest Evaluation Association test. Webster said the NWEA focus will be on identifying student needs.

The meeting at City Hall will be televised live on public access TV’s Channel 22, and will be rebroadcast Friday, Aug. 21.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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