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LETTER: Concerns about redistricting Lewiston’s elementary schools

To the Editor:

Through this letter I am hoping to motivate parents to attend the meetings that will be held in their child’s schools concerning the redistricting of the Lewiston Public Elementary Schools as proposed by the Redistricting Committee.

I do have to commend the committee for its transparency in the recent articles concerning the reasons and conclusions on how and why they want to redistrict. I do, however, have many concerns on why it will be done in the fashion that they are proposing.

For starters, taking more children from the downtown area and sending them to schools further away is going to decrease parental involvement. I have spoken to a young, single mom of four who at the beginning of the year put in a request for out-of-district placement for her three children of school age (something that she will have to do every year).

Although she lives right in the downtown area, her children are actually in the Montello School district. She has no transportation to attend parent conferences, let alone go and pick up a sick child from school. Fortunately, she was granted her request and her children are permitted to attend Longley. She is very excited about the intervention programs that are offered to her children there and feels that it is the best fit for them.

When my children attended Longley, they all took part in the music program that was offered during their recess time, but often they were the only ones. Some argue that the downtown kids do not have the same opportunities as other kids, fancy music rooms or a variety of sports to take part in. Most of these so-called opportunities involve transporting your children to concerts and games at other schools, and many low-income parents do not have vehicles to do so. So their children do not participate.

My husband and I own our home and have raised our four children and have run an urban youth outreach for the last 18 years in the downtown area. One of our main goals is to teach children how they can contribute to their neighborhood and become an outstanding student and citizen, regardless of their family’s financial status.

The truth is that many of these kids will not have the opportunity to go to college; most will probably work a labor job, and others may fall into the cycle of welfare dependency. Although there is always the exception, the one who will rise up and will conquer every battle and become a financial success, we need to put more focus on being a success, no matter where you live or how much money you make.

My other concern is for the families who have worked hard to build and buy homes in the more affluent part of town so that they can offer the very best environment for their children. It is not a crime to work hard and want better for your children. Although the number of students who would be asked to leave their current schools seems small and insignificant, it may not be a small thing to the families that are affected.

I am talking about children who have lived in the same house their whole lives and have friends in the neighborhood that they are expecting to always go to school with. It is not uncommon for the children in the downtown area to move once, twice—even three times—during the school year, and now we want those who live in owner-occupied houses to move schools?

I wish I could get the word out to parents on how important it is for them to go to the open school committee meetings and discuss their feelings and concerns.

Students do join all their peers once they go to middle school and high school. But if parents feel that they do not have a choice in the early beginnings of their children’s learning environment, then I believe that it will create a gateway for charter schools to be considered as an alternative.

I know that the committee means well. But do you think that when people are helping their children to pick out colleges they look for the one that has the best ratio of immigrants or rich to poor? Or do they choose the college that will best help their child to attain their goals?

Let me finish with this: all of Lewiston’s public schools have qualified teachers and offer programs to all children to help them succeed, regardless of race or financial standings. Are we concerned about the education of our students, or are we just worried that some of our schools will not fare as well in the eyes of other communities or in state standings?

Sonia Taylor, Lewiston

Ward 5 School Committee Member

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