Mount Vernon BOE finalizes school restructuring plan

The plan to move 180 Kindergarten through fourth-grade students out of the Rebecca Turner Elementary School and into the fifth through eighth grade Benjamin Turner Middle School has been met with a ton of pushback from parents who said they were blindsided by the decision.

Jonathan Gordon

Aug 16, 2023, 1:48 AM

Updated 246 days ago

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The Mount Vernon Board of Education voted in favor of a plan Tuesday night that will combine one of its elementary schools with a middle school starting next month.
"In considering this change, we weighed the options and the challenges of the transition," Lorna Kirwan, Mount Vernon Board of Education president said on Tuesday night.
The plan to move 180 kindergarten through fourth-grade students out of the Rebecca Turner Elementary School and into the fifth through eighth grade Benjamin Turner Middle School has been met with a ton of pushback from parents who said they were blindsided by the decision.
The district will move its alternative high school, the Sundown Program, into the former Rebecca Turner building and continue to house its pre-K students there as well. Students and staff of the Sundown Program voiced their support for the change.
"We also needed to consider our students that are over-age and under-credited. We are responsible for the education of all of our students, " Kirwan said.
District officials said broad talks of restructuring schools had been going on for at least a year, but a final decision on this change was reached last week. Parents first heard about this plan last Wednesday night during a virtual meeting between the community and school board members.
Mount Vernon Superintendent of Schools Dr. K. Veronica Smith said several factors including declining enrollment and a more efficient use of space were reasons behind the decision.
Parents have complained that the process was rushed, raised concerns about the impact of the last-minute change on students with special needs, and worry about their children's safety by having young and older kids in the same building.
"My daughter is in special education, and we're supposed to be working together as a team but where is the parental involvement, where is the parental voice, and where is the parental choice?" Dr. Bianca Lopez, a parent of a Rebecca Turner Elementary School student asked.
At Tuesday night's meeting, the district reiterated its safety plans which include putting security guards at each entrance, two School Resource Officers in both buildings, a fence between the two schools, and separate entrances to keep younger and older students separate during the day.
"We take the security concerns of our community and our children very seriously and we planned and will continue to prepare accordingly," Kirwan said.
The first full day of school is Thursday, Sept. 7.


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