The closure of three more elementary schools, including Zena Elementary, and a reconfiguration of grade levels have been hypothetical elements of the Kingston City School redistricting discussion for months, but Superintendent Paul Padalino’s initial proposal last week put it squarely on the table.
Padalino, Kingston’s administrative chief since January, announced a plan for redistricting that actually began with last week’s official closure of Frank L. Meagher Elementary. It is designed to address yet another school district with a declining student population, an aggressive state-mandated tax cap, and a decrease in state aid. Padalino has called it “rightsizing,” which in the case of his proposal means adding Anna Devine, Sophie Finn and Zena to the list of shuttered elementary schools in the district. Entering the 2011-12 school year, Kingston had 11 elementary schools. If Padalino’s plan moves forward, it would start the 2013-14 school year with just seven, and Kindergarten through grade four Zena students would go to Crosby Elementary on Neighborhood Road in Lake Katrine.
The redistricting plan calls for seven K-4 elementary schools, the two current middle schools housing grades 5-8, and the high school, teaching grades 9-12.
According to Padalino, that makes the most sense for Kingston. He said that keeping things exactly as-is would fail to address academic issues in Kingston, a district with an overall dropout rate of 29 percent, a rate that rises dramatically in various minority, economically disadvantaged and student with disabilities subgroups — 53% among Kingston’s black student population; 40% among Latino students; 41% of economically and 73% for students with disabilities..
Grade reconfiguration also allows the flexibility to close three more elementary schools, according to the proposal. Under Padalino’s plan, Anna Devine would be merged with Robert Graves; Zena would be merged with Crosby; and Sophie Finn would be merged with Harry L. Edson.
“Closing one school is one of the hardest things a school district has to do,” Padalino said. “To look at closing four between Meagher this year and another three next year is difficult. It’s just the math at this point. We have significantly fewer students and the same overhead. It doesn’t make sense. By consolidating, by merging schools and by changing our grade configuration, we can utilize our resources much more efficiently and deliver better education to our students.”