HAVERHILL — School Superintendent Margaret Marotta plans to create a new middle school at the St. James building and move Haverhill Alternative School and a program for students with disabilities from St. James to two other buildings. 

Students in grade four would be moved from the Tilton to St. James, where a fifth- and sixth-grade program also would be added. Then 80 students in the Haverhill Alternative School and TEACH programs would be moved to Greenleaf and Bartlett schools.

School officials say this interim solution is needed to address middle-school level overcrowding until a more permanent resolution is reached by rebuilding or renovating Consentino School.

At its April 11 meeting, the School Committee voted 5-2 in favor of a "Right Size" redistricting plan that Marotta said is designed to trim class sizes at crowded middle schools while filling classroom seats at schools with openings.

Several parents voiced opposition to moving the Alternative School and Therapeutic Assessment Center of Haverhill programs.

As part of the plan, Consentino will eliminate its grade four, reverting back to a grade five through eight school, while seeing a reduction of more than 100 students.

The repurposing of the St. James School from a specialized facility educating 80 students to a middle school with the potential to educate more than 300 students will also help ease overcrowding.

The city leases St. James from the Archdiocese of Boston. 

The TEACH program serves some of the district's most physically and mentally challenged students, while HALT serves students with "social and emotional disabilities" who "need a very small, structured, intensive, therapeutic day school," according to the superintendent.

Both programs, which have operated at St. James for the past 18 years, were recently placed on probation pending re-approval by the state Department of Education after an investigation found that the school administration had failed to comply with state and federal law on several occasions this school year.

Per Marotta's plan, when the alternative school moves from St. James School to the Greenleaf School and the TEACH program from St. James to the Bartlett School, children who would normally attend  Bartlett and Greenleaf will attend other schools, including Tilton and Bradford Elementary.

St. James School would enroll middle-schoolers primarily from Tilton Elementary neighborhoods.

The proposal is part of the Tilton Redesign Plan to recast the current school as a kindergarten to grade three elementary for about 400 children.

Currently, Tilton, located at 70 Grove St. in the Mt. Washington neighborhood, serves 458 students in kindergarten to grade four.

Marotta indicated that under the plan, Tilton Elementary on Grove Street would be known as Tilton Lower and St. James would be referred to as Tilton Upper. 

The redistricting plan was crafted by a group headed by Tilton Principal Bonnie Antkowiak.

"The idea is that this is going to foster continuity for Tilton students and families and make for a strong school community at both schools,” said Antkowiak, who will oversee both Tilton schools under the plan.

Marotta said her 2019-20 budget proposal includes funding for interior and exterior improvements to St. James and other impacted school buildings, additional staffing needs and moving expenses related to the transition plan.

She noted that officials with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will inspect the Greenleaf and Bartlett schools before certifying that they are acceptable to accommodate the HALT and TEACH programs.

"We don’t anticipate any issues or problems," Marotta said. 

Last October, Tilton was recognized by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for outstanding improvement on the state MCAS test. 

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