WINTHROP — The school board will hold a community forum on Tuesday, Jan. 24 to revisit grade level alignment in the district’s buildings, including moving the fifth grade from the grade school.

“One of the things we want to look at is how we use our facilities and how grades are aligned in each of our buildings,” Superintendent Gary Rosenthal said at the board’s meeting Wednesday night. “And one of the things I think is important is maximizing program opportunities for students at all grade levels.”

A key question is whether to keep the fifth graders housed in the elementary school or move them to empty space in Winthrop Middle School, where they could take advantage of foreign language and athletic programs, Rosenthal said.

That same issue arose at a meeting in June, and parents convinced then-superintendent Briane Coulthard that the timing was wrong for the move. The fifth graders already had to adjust to new bus drivers, new school times and two new teachers, one mother of a fifth-grader told the board.

School officials wanted to save $45,000 a year by closing off the top floor of the grade school, which had housed the fifth grade classrooms. Officials at the time said they would be able to accommodate the students on the main floor and Coulthard agreed the move could wait a year.

Rosenthal said moving the students from the building in the upcoming school year would have a budgetary impact. He wouldn’t elaborate on the figures. He said the issue should be discussed and decided early, so that parents will know by the end of the school year where their children attend school next fall.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the board also heard an update from School Nutrition Director Cherie Merrill, who reported that as of mid-year the program is on track to cost the town less than the $130,000 budgeted last year.

The number of breakfasts served this year has tripled, pushing the per-breakfast cost down by about half. Merrill said the number of lunches served has increased marginally, while the cost per lunch served has climbed by about 20 percent because of the increased use of local produce in the menu.

“We need to continue to create efficiencies,” Merrill said, citing labor costs. The number of meals produced per worker hour is still too low, she said.

Among other nutritional innovations introduced this year, the elementary school no longer serves flavored milk, only skim and low-fat. All breads, grains and cereals are whole grain or whole wheat. At the high school, portion control is achieved through the use of 9-inch plates.

“The high school kids have one major complaint,” said Principal Karen Criss. “They want bigger plates. They love this food.”


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