Q: What is Partner Schooling?
A: 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 "partner school" plan. The plan would cap certain sections of grade levels in elementary schools that have reached pre-determined 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. Although this is a new plan in LMSD, many local districts already utilize similar strategies to help maintain appropriate class sizes.
Q: Why is Partner Schooling necessary?
A: 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. 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. Partner schooling will help alleviate the immediate impact of enrollment growth on elementary school classrooms and support the District's efforts to maintain favorable class sizes, preserve programs, maximize existing resources and provide planning flexibility at the elementary level.
Q: Will any current students be moved to a Partner School next year?
A: No. No student currently assigned to a school will need to move schools – even if the school reaches maximum capacity; this policy is strictly for new registrants.
Q: How and when will I know if my child will attend a Partner School or our home school for the 2018-19 school year?
A: Families that register online on or before May 1, 2018, and complete the registration process by providing, in person, the requisite documentation on or before June 1, 2018, 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 1st and before August 1st, we cannot guarantee notification by mid-August, but will work to notify families as soon as possible prior to the beginning of the school year.
Q: Will the District take steps to ensure that siblings attend the same school?
A: As discussed in a previous answer, all families that register their children on or before May 1, 2018 and complete the formal registration process will be guaranteed that their children (including siblings) are assigned to their home school. Thereafter, priority will be 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.
Q: What are some of the benefits of partner schooling for the school community?
A: • 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.
Q: Will the District be communicating about this family with realtors?
A: Yes. The District plans to host a meeting with realtors this spring and will provide ongoing updates to community members, including parents and pre-K providers.
Q: Is there a Board policy related to the partner school plan?
A: Yes, Board Policy 206 (AR 206-4) is on the District website. Click here to view.