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Lewiston School Committee Rejects Redistricting Plan
02/26/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

After months of public meetings - and a lot of controversy - the Lewiston School Committee last night voted down a proposal to redistrict the city's elementary schools. The plan was introduced last fall in order to fill 10 new classrooms and balance diversity. While school administrators said the changes would enhance student experience and learning, many parents disagreed. Patty Wight reports.

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Lewiston School Committee Rejects Redistricting Pl Listen
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The redistricting plan sparked opposition right away. Parents from affected schools complained they weren't included in the planning and that there was no evidence that balancing diversity would boost overall student grades. Some said that drawing new boundary lines would divide and diminish existing neighborhoods.

The school committee heard those complaints loud and clear, and voted down the plan 5 to 3 on Monday night. School committee member Linda Scott says the plan had shifted too far from its original intent. "In my personal opinion, we went from needing to fill classes, to trying to diversify the whole city," she says.

Scott says 80 students are needed to fill the new classrooms, but the plan was going to affect nearly three times as many students. "Do we really need to shift around 230 students to fill these slots," she says, "or can we do it in an easier way that would make everybody in the community happier?"

Scott says she supports diversity, but points out that the plan didn't even touch the school with the largest number of English Language Learners and reduced lunch recipients.

Lewiston School Supernintendent Bill Webster says the rejection of the plan doesn't change the overall goal of balancing school diversity to accurately reflect the city's demographics. "So I still look upon an ideal diversity number being in the 20 to 25 percent in my elementary school grades," he says. "And again, absent any direction from the school committee, I will use school choice to get us closer to that goal."

Webster says he gets about 500 requests a year to allow certain kids to attend schools out of their districts due to various family issues, such as day care. He says he can typically accommodate about 80 percent of those requests, but now he may have to be more selective in order to fill the new classrooms at McMahon Elementary.

Still, this doesn't mean the idea of redrawing boundary lines will be permanently laid to rest. School Committee member Linda Scott says Lewiston is due to get a new elementary school within the next five to seven years, and that will prompt a need to redistrict.



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