District could be back to square one on redistricting

Published Jan 10, 2017 at 4:00pm

The Rome school district may be back to square one regarding potential use of a consultant firm to help with a redistricting study of where students attend school.

A firm that was being considered, including having given a public presentation in November on what a study might involve, is no longer available.

Representatives of the firm, Castallo & Silky LLC of Syracuse, now are all “tied up” with projects for other school districts, Rome district Superintendent Peter C. Blake said last week. The district and the Board of Education “would have to find another consultant” if it aims to use such a service to help with redistricting, he added.

The matter will be reviewed by the board, and may “come up in committee meetings this week,” board President Paul Fitzpatrick said Monday. He is “not sure what other consultants are out there” with sufficient experience.

Regardless, Fitzpatrick said of redistricting that the district can “not let this go too long....It needs to be done.” Projections in November were for redistricting to be implemented by September 2018 for the 2018-19 school year, and Fitzpatrick said he would still seek it “certainly by 2018-19.” He also said “I’d like to see something...by this coming year” regarding at least some redistricting steps, but that may be difficult.

A need for redistricting has been prompted by factors including overcrowding at some of the district’s elementary schools, and seeking more balanced enrollments. A potential redistricting has been discussed by the board at various points for over three years.

Blake said in his online blog Sunday that “the district received some unfortunate news that the educational consultants that we were hoping to work with...had to withdraw their participation due to other school districts officially contracting with them first and not being able to commit the time necessary to doing the study with fidelity.”

Blake remarked, “the capacity of our buildings, total enrollment of the district, and class sizes for our youngest learners is a top priority for the district moving forward. The challenging part about this issue is that in order to provide a viable solution that is sustainable, it takes time.”

But time “is not necessarily on our side,” Blake added.

“Regardless, we will continue to pursue the best possible option/solution with regard to our building enrollments to ensure that our children have the best opportunity to learn,” the superintendent said.

A reconfiguration of grades is among various redistricting possibilities, Blake said Monday night in response to a question during a community dialogue meeting.

If more space in district schools does not become available such as through a capital project, he said, another step conceivably could involve converting Staley Upper Elementary School into a grade K-5 “gigantic elementary building.”

Staley currently hosts grades 5 and 6. But such a move would require Strough Middle School to also host grade 6 in addition to its current grades 7 and 8, he added.