Bangor school redistricting plan approved - Move set to balance middle school enrollment

Bangor Daily News (ME) - Tuesday, April 29, 1997
Author: Dawn Gagnon Of the NEWS Staff: BANGOR DAILY NEWS (BANGOR, MAINE
The School Committee approved a plan Monday aimed at achieving a balance in the enrollments between the city's two middle schools. 

Superintendent James Doughty attributed the enrollment imbalance between Fifth Street and Garland Street middle schools, in part, to an unanticipated west-to-east shift in the city's pupil population. 

The Bangor School Department supports five neighorhood primary schools, serving pupils in kindergarten through grade three. From there, pupils move on to two transitional schools for grades four and five, one on the East Side and one on the West Side, with the Kenduskeag Stream being the unofficial border. 

Pupils move on to two middle schools, again on their respective sides of the city. By the time they reach ninth grade, students from all parts of the city converge at Bangor High School. 

On the East Side, the superintendent said, "There is a very substantial increase in the pupil count, and it's causing problems." 

Garland Street School, on the East Side, was designed to accommodate up to 550 pupils. Enrollment there, however, has reached nearly 600, the superintendent's April 1 enrollment figures show. 

Meanwhile, Fifth Street Middle School on the West Side has an enrollment of fewer than 450 pupils, more than 100 pupils below its capacity, according to the April 1 count. 

Under the proposal that the School Committee approved Monday night, pupils who reside in the areas west of Kenduskeag Stream, including Griffin Park and the neighborhood known as New Capehart, will move into Fairmount School and Fifth Street school effective Sept. 1, 1998. 

School Committee member Susan Carlisle agreed that enrollment figures supported the redistricting plan. She expressed concern, however, that the shift might widen the gap between Garland Street's and Fifth Street's eighth-grade Maine Educational Assessment test scores. 

The Garland Street scores, she said, traditionally have been "very high," while the scores at Fifth Street Middle School have been lower. 

She added that Fifth Street might also see an increase in special needs pupils. 

Doughty said that special education programs were systemwide, so neither school should be adversely affected by redistricting. He also said that such "interventions" as the aspirations project at Fairmount School, on the west side, likely will be extended to Fifth Street's middle school population. 

Pupils who live on the section of Broadway beyond Six Mile Falls will not be affected by the redistricting plan, Doughty said. 

"We will not divide up families, at [their] request," Doughty added. If the redistricting results in the separation of siblings who otherwise would have attended the same intermediate or middle school, the School Department will allow them to go to the same school. 

"I think that'll solve our intermediate school and middle school enrollment problems," Doughty said after the plan was adopted. 

He observed, however, that potential for further enrollment increases exist on the east side of the Kenduskeag, especially in light of recent efforts to redevelop former military housing. He said that he will continue to track Fairmount School enrollment numbers to make sure the school does not experience overcrowding in the future. 

Fruit Street and Abraham Lincoln schools, which appear to be heading toward a similar enrollment imbalance, might also be candidates for redistricting in the future, Doughty noted. 

Educators will continue to watch kindergarten enrollment numbers in the two schools to determine if enrollment shifts between them are more than a temporary flux. 

Doughty noted that overall enrollment in Bangor's 10 public schools is up slightly from last year. The April 1 enrollment for 1996 was 4,257. On the same date this year, the total was 4,394.