Dear LMSD Families,
The Board is currently reviewing several strategies to assist in alleviating the impact of enrollment growth on elementary school classrooms. As has been reported, LMSD enrollment is at its highest levels in more than 40 years. Across the District, many elementary classrooms are at or nearing capacity in certain grade levels and sections. An immediate priority is providing additional classroom space at Penn Wynne Elementary School, where there has been particularly significant growth in recent years. The District is already moving forward with installation of temporary classrooms at Penn Wynne for the 2016-17 school year.
While expanding classroom capacity is one strategy to address enrollment growth, the Board is sensitive to the potential costs of temporary classrooms and new construction. Short-term, these costs include design, engineering and construction. Long-term, these projects also result in additional operational costs, staffing, etc. In many cases, these investments are necessary and worthwhile; they do, however, require careful planning and cost-benefit analysis. Thus, the Board is considering short-term strategies that would provide more time for the District to review enrollment projections and less costly alternatives to construction.
In an effort to maintain favorable class sizes, preserve programs, maximize existing resources and provide planning flexibility at the elementary level, the District is introducing a new "partner school" plan. The plan caps certain sections of grade levels in elementary schools that have reached class size targets. When those sections are capped, students who register thereafter will be enrolled at a "partner school" - a Lower Merion elementary school that can accommodate further enrollment in that class section. For example, if a new student registers for first grade, but there are no open first grade seats in his/her "home school," the student would be assigned to first grade in the "partner school" where there are open seats. When a child is enrolled in a partner school, he/she will receive all the benefits of attending the home school, including transportation, etc. and have the opportunity to return to the home school once space becomes available.
Additional advantages of partner schooling:
- Partner schooling impacts a relatively small number of students and alleviates the need for community-wide redistricting.
- As referenced above, partner schooling helps minimize disruptions to the school program and helps to preserve dedicated classroom space for music, art, physical education, etc.
- Partner schooling is a fiscally-responsible strategy, enabling the District to maximize existing classroom capacity and staff resources.
- Partner schooling will alleviate the immediate need for construction and/or temporary classrooms at all schools except Penn Wynne.
Families that register online on or before May 1, 2017, and complete the registration process by providing, in person, the requisite documentation on or before June 1, 2017, will be guaranteed that their child/ren will be assigned to their home school. Thereafter, children will be assigned to their home school based upon the space available with priority given to children with siblings already attending their home school and to children who reside in the portion of the home school attendance area for which transportation is not provided. For those who register after May 1, 2017, notification of placement in a partner school will be confirmed by mid-August. Whenever possible, students will have the opportunity to attend the home school once space becomes available. It is important to note that no student currently assigned to a school will need to move schools - even if the school reaches maximum capacity; this plan is strictly for new registrants.
In addition, families who complete a change of address (within Lower Merion School District) with the Central Registration office on or after May 30, 2017, may be subject to partner school placement if their new address places their elementary school student(s) in a different school attendance area.
The District will keep community members informed regarding the partner school plan. The District will provide comprehensive resources on the District website, including a complete list of Frequently Asked Questions, and will provide information to a variety of interested stakeholders, including parents, Pre-K providers, realtors, etc. It is critical that community members understand the policy and can assist in the communication of accurate information.
The most recent version of the policy and administrative regulations related to the Partner School plan can be found on the District website by clicking here. For information about 2017-18 registration, please visit the registration section of the District website.
Questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your consideration.
Robert L. Copeland
Superintendent of Schools