Branch Brook parents finally have some clarity after months of debate, anger and sadness.
Since November 2015, it has been unclear where Smithtown school district residents who send their kids to Branch Brook Elementary School, one of the district’s eight currently open elementary schools, will be sending their kids when Branch Brook closes ahead of the 2017-18 school year. At a board of education meeting Tuesday, Superintendent James Grossane announced which of his five proposed plans and one parent-proposed sixth option he would be selecting, which he was charged with doing by the board after they voted to close Branch Brook in February.
Grossane chose Option 4, which has been amended since the options were introduced about eight months ago, but includes most of the main points. Fifty-nine percent of current Branch Brook families will be attending Mount Pleasant Elementary in the fall of 2017, while the remaining 41 percent will move to Tackan Elementary School, according to Grossane.
Branch Brook territory is currently bordered to the east by Southern Boulevard, which meets the southern border at Townline Road. The northeastern corner of Branch Brook territory is the corner of Smithtown Bypass and Southern Boulevard. A few neighborhoods north of Smithtown Bypass and east of Terry Road are currently Branch Brook. The western border includes a large chunk of Smithtown Bypass, then splits and heads directly south to meet Townline Road near Helen Avenue.
The new district lines will use Terry Road, which becomes Smithtown Boulevard south of Smithtown Bypass, as a dividing line. Homes east of Terry Road that were Branch Brook territory will now be Tackan, while the west side of Terry Road will be Mount Pleasant, with some exceptions.
Grossane left the door open to the possibility of keeping students who would have been fifth-graders in Branch Brook in 2017-18 together, sending them all to Tackan for that year, though he said that is not ideal.
“There’s going to be quite a few students from Branch Brook in either building in each classroom, so no one will be alone,” Grossane said, which should somewhat ease a concern parents of Branch Brook students raised throughout the process, that changing schools could be traumatic and difficult for young kids.
The redrawing of lines will also alter the feeder system to the district’s two high schools, though Grossane said he will give families the option of keeping their younger children on track to attend one of the two high schools if the family already has older kids at one, to avoid having a family with kids in different high schools.
Grossane said both Tackan and Mount Pleasant will be operating at about 93 percent of their capacity during 2017-18, but the class sizes for both schools should remain below the district’s preferred average size of 28 students.
At least one Mount Pleasant parent and PTA member was glad to hear students in no school other than Branch Brook would be displaced as a result of the closure and subsequent redrawing of district lines.
“Thank you very much Dr. Grossane for not removing any Mount Pleasant students who are currently enrolled, and I want to say welcome to the Branch Brook family,” Deb Phillips said during the meeting Tuesday. “You are going to love Mount Pleasant. … There’s so many great things, and we welcome you with open arms.”
A transitional committee will begin meeting in the coming weeks and months to handle the mechanics of the changes. The committee will include administrators and principals from all three applicable elementary schools.