Following a contentious board of education meeting in November surrounding a proposal to cluster elementary grades—known as the Princeton Plan, where all students in the district in the same grade would attend the same elementary school versus the current model, where students go to their geographically closest school from K to 5—the Bayport-Blue Point Board of Education and community members were presented some additional comparative information during a presentation on “Enrollment Updates” by superintendent Dr. Tim Hearney.
At the opening of the presentation, Hearney confirmed that all research and possible proposals were made with the school’s goals of high expectations, fair opportunity, and abundant support. Taking data points from over 30 comparably sized school districts throughout Nassau and Suffolk (the districts ranged from 1,588 to 2,928 students, whereas Bayport-Blue Point’s total enrollment is currently from 2,100 to 2,200), Hearney’s presentation was a solid numbers gain that showed BBP’s ranking in budget, services, classroom sizes and special education resources. The purpose of these comparisons was to delve deeper into the comparable districts’ school configurations to determine if the proposed plan for BBP (one K-1, 2-3, 4-5 school or two K-3 and one 4-5 school) would be in the district’s best interest and if it would address and retain the current services students receive, especially with the special education students, as BBP ranks third highest out of 30 schools for percentage of special education classification rate at 16.8 percent.
While the study determined that BBP was in the minority for having three separate K-5 schools, the presentation raised new questions, particularly about drawing new lines for the schools.
Hearney asked if the board would be open to an added expense of about $6,000 to $10,000 to hire a demographer to sort through the different redistricting plans that would make the grade clustering feasible and equitable to the classroom sizes. “We need to examine district lines and re-examine the configuration. We need to look at programs and whether we will need to move them from one building to another,” Hearney stated, adding, “I don’t know how redistricting will affect students who are already in the school system.”
Most tenuous about the redistricting proposal was board vice president Brian Johnson. “We have classes with 13 students and one grade up is 24. I don’t think the [grade clustering] plan will address that issue,” he said, adding later in the comments section, “It seems we will still have that problem with 12 or 13 kids per class.”
Fellow trustee William Holl echoed Johnson’s concerns. “Money aside, being ranked fourth out of 30 districts speaks volumes of where we are, and I don’t see a reason to change based on the ranking. Reconfiguration may not be as urgent as we thought,” he said.
Hearney agreed with the sentiments delaying the reconfigurations, especially given the community’s request for permission to perform further research and metrics on the matter. Holl raised the question to allow for a demographer not exceeding $15,000 with the only objection being from Johnson, who further expressed his concerns that low enrollment would not be addressed by grade reconfiguration.
Community members who spoke were impressed and pleased with Hearney’s presentation and only asked that the community have an active voice in any ongoing research or exploratory measures. Hearney concluded that “the current fourth-grade class, at 121 students, is an anomaly, I believe. I think we’re probably going to have class sizes in the 135-145 range—obviously down from the 185 graduation rate we’re seeing now—but those lower numbers are similar to what we had in the ‘90s, and that’s why we need more research through a demographer to see what the district lines were then and why they changed.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misinterpreted vice president Brian Johnson's comments about redistricting.