Top Bar

Lower Merion School District

Off-Canvas

Partner School Info

Letter Regarding Partner Schools

Dear LMSD Families,

The Board has reviewed a number of strategies to assist in alleviating the impact of enrollment growth on elementary school classrooms. One such strategy described herein is “partner schooling,” which provides the following advantages:

  • Partner schooling impacts a relatively small number of students and alleviates the need for community-wide redistricting.
  • 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 alleviates the immediate need for construction and/or temporary classrooms at all schools except Penn Wynne.

The "partner school" plan caps certain sections of grade levels in elementary schools that have reached class size targets. Once those sections are capped, “new” students (either new to the District or new to the school as a result of an intra-District move) will be enrolled at a "partner school," which is 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 their "home school," the student will be assigned to first grade in the "partner school" where there are open seats. When a child is enrolled in a partner school, they will receive all the benefits of attending the home school, including transportation, etc.

Important Note for Families Who Disenroll with Intent to Return to District: Any time a family disenrolls their student(s), they are considered a new registrant upon return and are subject to the timelines set forth herein. The District reserves the right to consider non-attendance or disenrollment of a temporary duration (less than 45 calendar days) as one that is not subject to this partner school plan. In order to qualify as a temporary disenrollment, the family must document their intent to return within a 45-day period to the building principal. Failure to provide advance notice will disqualify families from any such guaranteed right to return to their home school.

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 (also, sometimes, referred to as the “walk zone”).

Important Note for Families Moving within the District: This timeline also applies to students that move between attendance areas within the District. For example, a 2ndgrade student attends Belmont Hills Elementary School during the 2017-18 school year and her family intends to moves to the Merion Elementary School attendance area for the 2018-19 school year. In order to guarantee placement at Merion, the family must provide proof of residence within the Merion attendance area on or before June 1, 2018. Throughout the school year, we encourage prompt notice (generally within 10 days of the change of residence) of a change of address within the District’ boundaries to be directed to the District’s Central Registration Office in the District’s Administration Building.

For those who register after May 1 and before August 1, notification of placement in a partner school will be confirmed by mid-August. For students registering after August 1st, we cannot guarantee notification by mid-August, but will work to notify families as soon as possible prior to the beginning of school.

Whenever possible, students will have the opportunity to attend the home school once space becomes available. Prior to the beginning of the school year, the District reserves the right to reassign partner school students back to their home school should space become available prior to the first day of school. Thereafter, families of partner school students in grades K-4 will be afforded a one-time option to return to their home school if space becomes available. Thereafter, the District may, but is not required, to offer an opportunity for Partner School students to return to their home school. Families of students who are subject to partner schooling in grade 5 will only be offered the opportunity to return to their home school at the sole discretion of the District.

It is important to note that no student currently assigned and attending a school will need to move schools - even if the school reaches maximum capacity; this plan is strictly for new registrants and families that move within the District to another attendance area.

To the greatest extent possible, students who are assigned to a partner school will be assigned to one within their current Middle School feeder pattern. This means that the typical partner school options for students within the Bala Cynwyd Middle School feeder pattern are Cynwyd Elementary, Merion Elementary, and Penn Wynne Elementary. The typical partner school options for students within the Welsh Valley Middle School feeder pattern are Belmont Hills Elementary, Gladwyne Elementary, and Penn Valley Elementary.

The District will provide 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. Questions may be directed to info@lmsd.org.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Robert L. Copeland
Superintendent of Schools

Partner School FAQ

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.