August 28, 2013

School overcrowding continues in Windham

Four volunteer to attend Raymond Elementary, but without redistricting, enrollment is unbalanced.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Four students have answered a call for volunteers to help ease overcrowding at Windham Primary School by going to Raymond Elementary School this fall.

That's far fewer than the 70 students from Windham who would have had to go to school in Raymond under a proposal to balance enrollment between the district's two elementary schools.

Windham Primary School, where classes start Wednesday, has 843 students -- up 25 from last fall and more than 150 over the school's capacity.

Meanwhile, Raymond Elementary expects about 258 students, said Superintendent Sandy Prince. That's 200 fewer students than the building can hold.

Last fall, a committee recommended having students who live north of Whites Bridge Road in Windham attend elementary and middle school in Raymond.

After parents from Windham objected to that proposal at public forums, the proposal was changed to have north Windham students attend Raymond Elementary School through fifth grade, then choose where they wanted to go to middle school.

That still didn't satisfy opponents, and the school board ultimately voted not to make any change.

Windham Primary School Principal Kyle Rhoads said spaces in the school have been rearranged and class sizes will grow to accommodate what's expected to be a one-year spike in enrollment. The purchase of a portable classroom wasn't necessary, as school officials believed it would be this year.

In previous years, closets at the school were converted into offices to make more space for students.

Since Windham and Raymond merged into one district in 2008, school officials have considered several ways to make the best use of their buildings.

After the redistricting proposal was rejected, Prince sent a letter to Windham parents asking for volunteers to attend Raymond Elementary School.

Four students will join five others from Windham who already go to school in Raymond. A bus will make stops at Windham Primary and Manchester School, attended by Windham fourth- and fifth-graders, before going to Raymond Elementary.

Prince said the estimated cost of transporting the nine students to Raymond for the year is $11,000.

Marge Govoni, vice chair of the school board, said there are no plans to revisit the issue of redistricting. Depending on the number of students who show up in the first week of school, the board might consider adding to the staff at Windham Primary, she said.

Govoni was one of two board members who voted in favor of redistricting, along with Chair Catriona Sangster. Govoni said she has spent a lot of time in the primary school since then.

"No, they're not hanging out the windows," she said of the students. "Would they be better served if they had more room there? Yes, I believe they would."

 

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com

 

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