Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote this:
The city has to come to a decision whether it will move forward with the plan to build two new, 900-student K-8 schools, said Superintendent Phil Streifer.
"It's time for an up or down vote," said Streifer. "It's just that simple. We've got to move this forward."
Streifer said the K-8 school project is high on his own agenda. He said he's hoping the district will be able to move ahead with the plan.
"We're on schedule and we really can't get behind," said Streifer. "We don't have a lot of time here."
The deadline for the project – if the city is to get the state aid at the rate currently promised – is in the summer of 2010, less than two years from now.
"By that time, we have to have a signed construction contract," said Streifer, or lose the 73.9 percent state reimbursement for the project.
The state promise "is about as high as it's gonna get," said Streifer.
If the city passes that deadline without a contract in place, Bristol will have to reapply for state aid. Streifer said he doesn't know what rate the city would get then.
"I don't know if it'll be dramatically less, but it'll be less," said Streifer. He said inflation on construction projects is running about 7 percent a year, so the same project years from now will cost much more.
He wants to see a "thumbs up or thumbs down" decision on the K-8 plan, Streifer said.
"It's been on the burner a long time," said Streifer.
Streifer said he believes in the K-8 system "in this setting."
The K-8 system, Streifer said, would work in Bristol.
"K-8s tend to work better in more urban environments," said Streifer.
A K-8 format would reduce the number of students who change schools each year, Streifer said, because each school would have a larger geographic area to draw from.
Half the moves that students make are within the district, said Streifer.
The K-8 system also helps draw parents in, said Streifer, because once a parent gets involved in a school, they tend to stay.
"If you can get a parent engaged in a school, they tend to stay engaged in the school," said Streifer.
There aren't enough parents who are involved as volunteers in the city's schools, said Streifer, and encouraging more of them would help students.
Another plus with a K-8 school, Streifer said, is that the students would be in a "smaller learning community" because there would be fewer students in each grade.
It would mean a middle school of about 300 students, said Streifer.
"It's just fewer kids," said Streifer.
Besides drawing parents in and having fewer students in each middle school, Streifer offered another reason: money.
"This is the most cost effective solution of all the alternatives that have been looked at," said Streifer.
Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org