LEWISTON — Redistricting was once again in the spotlight at the School Committee meeting at Geiger Elementary School on Monday evening.
Robert Strong, a parent of two children at Geiger, told the committee, "Superintendent Bill Webster has been helpful with parents with redistricting." He questioned, however, just how many members of the committee attended recent parent meetings such as one held at Geiger on Dec. 12.
Strong expressed his concern, and that of other parents, that while they feel their input is welcome, lack of committee attendance shows it may not be making a difference.
The plan is to relocate up to 234 elementary school students next fall, because of growing enrollment and a goal of spreading out the city's population of poorer students and English language learners.
Forty-four students would be moved from Montello to Geiger; 87 students from Montello to McMahon; 92 from Geiger to Montello; one from Montello to Farwell; and 10 from Farwell to Montello. No students would be moved to or from Longley Elementary School.
School Committee Chairman Thomas Shannon from Ward 7 said a subcommittee was charged to look into the redistricting plan. They were to take into consideration overcrowding, new classroom space and the eventuality of a new school in the future. Shannon said that out of a desire to have a "broad spectrum" of ideas, parents were welcomed into the process and encouraged to have a public forum before the subcommittee meets again.
Shannon followed by saying that the issue of redistricting may not be a simple yes or no answer and that the subcommittee may return with an array of suggestions.
As for committee attendance, he responded that while he didn't know what the subcommittee would deliver, he felt that for every committee member to attend these meetings would not be realistic.
Paul St. Pierre from Ward 2 said if it were left to the committee alone, the final decision would have only one focus. He described the subcommittee process as a way of injecting a fresh point of view in the issue.
"Where the School Committee may be interested in a fair curriculum, we might tend to focus on just that," he said.
School Committee member Sonia Taylor from Ward 5 was a dissenting voice.
"I don't agree with what Paul St. Pierre is saying," she said.
Taylor said that as elected officials, it was up to the committee to get their information firsthand. She said more attendance at parent meetings would make members more attuned to parents' concerns.
"We are going to vote on this in February," she said. "The how, why and passion of what's being said is going to be lost between the subcommittee and the School Committee."
Joe Lavigne, parent of a Geiger student, was the last to address the committee.
"There are a number of serious concerns in the public," he said.
He wanted the committee to know he thought there were a "couple hundred" people at the Geiger parent meeting who were very passionate and concerned about the possibility of redistricting.