Letter: Lenox needs discussion on school choice options

Lenox needs discussion on school choice options

To the editor:

Lenox is at a crossroads concerning ongoing participation in school choice.

In the early days, school choice decisions were easy — simply fill the seat that would otherwise be empty and collect $5,500 from the state (at the expense of the student's home district). As the local population declines the number of empty seats to fill becomes a significant percentage of capacity, thus forcing the question: should Lenox have a smaller district sized to meet local needs?

The trade-off is cost versus school dynamics which are heavily impacted by the size of the student population. Lenox taxpayers deserve to know how much a premium they're now paying to support a larger student body comprised increasingly by non-Lenox residents.

Supt. Lee added $80,000 to the 2017 budget to allow a third kindergarten class made up of choice students. At one point he had tentatively decided on a reduction to two classes, that being what is needed to support Lenox residents. While I'm sure $80,000 is the operating budget impact, health care, retirement and support costs probably bring the figure closer to $120,000 which will not be fully offset by the choice dollars received.

As a starting point for discussion I suggest that Mr. Lee determine what the Lenox district would look like if we never had choice at all. How many students, what the programs might look like and what the budget would be. Then we discuss if that is the kind of district we'd like.

Recognizing that might be a very undesirable picture, we should be prepared to discuss options that differ greatly from the status quo. While shared services or some sort of combined district might be part of a new picture, we should also be open to vastly new ideas such as the flipped classroom and online models like the Kahn Academy.

In many areas of society the "old" ways are being challenged. Health care, employment, and certainly education. We owe it to the future Lenox to start the inevitable transition now.

Chuck Koscher, Lenox


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