Will Oysterponds be introducing multi-age classrooms?

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Oysterponds kindergarten teacher Jenny Schoenstein guides a student during a writing lesson on Tuesday morning.

The idea of a student exchange between the Greenport and Oysterponds schools took on a new dimension last week when Oysterponds board member Thom Gray asked the Greenport School Board at its Nov. 17 meeting to consider a program of shared elementary school services.

Under his proposal, Oysterponds would offer multi-age classrooms, each including two grades, in which students at different levels would work together in a single classroom. Greenport would offer the traditional one grade per classroom.

The Oysterponds district began exploring the multi-age concept in late October through a Skype internet session with local administrators, teachers and parents and their counterparts at the upstate Warwick Valley School District. Warwick Valley has used the multi-age classroom model for 27 years.

One advantage Warwick Valley has over Oysterponds is size. The district has several elementary schools, which allows parents to opt for the multi-age model, offered in one school, or send their children to one of the other schools, which follow the traditional model.

“We’re too small to do it ourselves,” Mr. Gray said about adopting the multi-age classroom concept in Oysterponds. Going that route alone would mean imposing it on all students, and that might not be a good idea, he said.

Mr. Gray suggested that Greenport consider joining them in exploring the concept. Oysterponds could offer the multi-age classrooms, taking in Greenport students whose families embraced the idea, while Greenport could educate students from both districts whose parents preferred the traditional approach, he suggested.

Tuition charges would have to be worked out between the two districts.

Oysterponds hasn’t yet made a decision on extending its contract with Greenport for education of secondary school students. Greenport accused Oysterponds of acting illegally when the previous board voted to roll back a contract that would have sent its junior and senior high school students to Greenport through the 2013-14 school year.

With the rollback, the contract now expires next June. By resolution, Oysterponds is required to tell parents by April with whom it’s negotiating for the following year.

Greenport has asked the state education department to rule whether the Oysterponds Board of Education acted legally in rolling back the Greenport contract from 2014 to 2011.

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