B.O.E. Looks at Magnet Programs to Deal with Record Student Enrollment

Henry Morjikian, Senior, Co-Sports Editor

On December 19, the Board of Education met in the middle school library to address the ongoing problem of student enrollment. Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ introduced the idea of Magnet programs as the best way to combat the looming issues caused by a recent spike in student enrollment throughout the Pelham school district. Magnet programs allow students to better pursue their specific academic interests.

Magnet programs are essentially specialized learning programs in which current elementary students can zero in on a particular subject. Elementary students would apply to attend the Magnet programs and, in most cases, becomes a full time student in the school that hosts the program. There is more initial research to do to determine if this is viable and appropriate for the district. The exact types of education that the Magnet programs would teach, whether it be IB, STEM or arts programs, are still in question.

In theory, two Magnet programs would be put into effect. One would take place at the new Hutchinson School being built, adding a $4.2 million dollar increase on the total expenditures of the project. The location of the second Magnet program is still being determined. Prospect Hill has the potential to host this program if their fire escape area by the basketball courts could be reconfigured to create necessary space.

This concept, would reduce each elementary school to two sections per grade, theoretically solving the enrollment dilemma at the elementary level. Relocating these students to a different building in which these Magnet programs would be instituted will mitigate overcrowding in elementary school buildings.

Board members also considered other solutions, like the Princeton plan, in which elementary schools are organized by grade level, not by geographic location, but decided that these alternatives would not serve the district’s best interests.

“We wanted to leave no stone unturned,” Dr. Champ said.
The Board of Education was quickly drawn to Dr. Champ’s new suggestion because it seems to be the best way to preserve the level of educational opportunity for which the Pelham school district has become known.
“Neighborhood schools and small class sizes are a core part of our identity,” Dr. Champ said at the meeting.

As decision making time this May draws nearer, the district will be looking to make the best choice to solve the current enrollment issue. As of now, Dr. Champ and the Board of Education consider the Magnet programs the most viable solution to handling increased enrollment, however the doors remain open for new ideas.