A contentious proposal to reorganize the Brunswick elementary school system would give the residents of Howard Hall a chance to sleep in on school days.
The proposal, drafted by Brunswick's superintendent James Ashe, would create a new intermediate school for children in grades three through five, close two of the four current elementary schools? including Longfellow Elementary, which sits directly behind Howard Hall?and leave the other two operating for kindergarten through second grade.
Associate Professor of Government and Asian Studies Henry Laurence is concerned with certain aspects of the proposal, and said that changes to the school system could impact the College.
"A big attraction for coming to Bowdoin for professors is the excellence of the elementary schools," Laurence said. "Private school is not an option for a lot of Bowdoin professors. A lot of professors are concerned that this current proposal will sacrifice educational quality and that's bad news for Bowdoin."
Ashe's proposal comes at a time when some residents are unhappy about what they perceive to be inequities in the elementary school system.
"Some people feel that there are some inequities," said Bob Morrison, an at-large member of the Brunswick school board. "Such as, certain schools have the children who might be in the special education program and others don't because of building issues that don't allow those kids to be housed there just because of space," he said. Morrison also said some residents felt that students of similar socioeconomic status might be clustered in certain schools.
The new school would hold approximately 622 students by the year 2010, and would alleviate some of the problems with Brunswick's current system. Students enrolled in special education programs would be equally distributed throughout the three schools; each school would have space for physical education, art, and music programs; and parking facilities would be improved.
While Ashe said that his proposal is intended to alleviate some of the concerns that Brunswick parents had raised with the current school system, others feel that it might create new ones.
According to Assistant Professor and Chair of the Department of Education Charles Dorn, most research in the area of school sizes suggests that students will perform better in elementary schools of less than 500 students. While this does not mean that the new school could not be successful, the proposal does appear to be moving in the wrong direction in terms of size, Dorn said.
When asked about issues of size, Ashe defended his proposal.
"A lot of that research that keeps getting alluded to, a lot of it tends more to be around high school settings than elementary schools, because elementary school is still 18 to 20 kids in a room with a teacher," Ashe said. Ashe added that in larger elementary schools such as the one that is being proposed, the facility is usually organized into separate wings to create a more intimate feel.
Another question raised was whether the College would be interested in acquiring the Longfellow Elementary School property, located behind Thorne Hall, if it were vacated.
"The College believes that the community needs to work through this and make a decision and we have no plans [to acquire the property] at all, whatsoever, none," Senior Vice President for Planning and Administration and Chief Development Officer William Torrey said.
"It wouldn't be appropriate to say that we'd be interested if these properties came on the market because they're not on the market. We believe very strongly that the community needs to do the right thing with their school system and that's it," he said.
According to the Brunswick Times Record, the school system's final decision on the plan will not be made for up to a year.