The Newton School Board has decided the future of elementary education in the District includes Pre-Kindergarten through 4th Grade students at an expanded and improved Aurora Heights Elementary School, and more Kindergarten through 4th graders at an expanded and renovated Thomas Jefferson Elementary. The vote for that option was 6 to 1, and came during a lengthy school board meeting last (Monday) night. The first vote taken was to negate the board’s prior decision to have Prekindergarten through 1st graders at Thomas Jefferson, and 2nd through 4th graders at Emerson Hough Elementary. That vote was also approved 6 to 1. Longtime School Board member Donna Cook was the lone dissenting vote each time. She supported the Pre-Kindergarten through 1st, and 2nd through 4th grade building configurations. She feels that would offer the best opportunity for teacher collaboration, and the best potential for growth in student achievement. School Board member Ray Whipple, a retired Newton teacher and administrator, made the motion for the more traditional school configuration, saying it’s what most teachers and community members want.
Board member Liz Hammerly, who has a BA in Elementary Education and her MA in Special Education, talked about common practice and community support.
Board member Josh Cantu believes equality across the district can be achieved with either option, and parental support is important.
Cantu also said state test score data showed very little difference between Kindergarten through 4th grade elementary schools, and Pre-Kindergarten through 1st, and 2nd through 4th grade schools.
Newton Superintendent Tom Messinger also mentioned any data on the subject is mixed.
The projected improvements that need to occur at Aurora Heights Elementary, which includes a 32-thousand square foot addition, total about 19-million dollars. The price tag for a 6-thousand foot addition and improvements at Thomas Jefferson Elementary is 13.3-million.