BOE considering three ECC locations for 2020-21 school year
FAIRFIELD — The Early Childhood Center will see more students headed to its Stratfield Elementary location for the 2019-20 school year and administrators are mulling over what other potential locations could host a growing number of students in future years.
Administrators are recommending that the ECC, which currently operates between Warde High School and Stratfield Elementary, move from Warde to Holland Hill Elementary for the 2020-21 school year.
North Stratfield Elementary, expected to open for the 2020-21 school year, would also, potentially, accept ECC students according to administrators’ recommendations.
Essentially, these three schools — Holland Hill, Stratfield and North Stratfield — would serve ECC students in 2020-21, a plan that will be discussed at future Board of Education meetings.
By the 2021-22 school year, administrators are recommending the ECC remain at Holland Hill and North Stratfield but would decide what to do regarding the Stratfield location, a site that already has ECC students and is expecting to receive more for the 2019-20 school year.
“There was a tremendous amount of work (going into this),” Superintendent Toni Jones, who heads off to Greenwich schools at the end of next month, said at the May 7 meeting. “We looked at pre-kindergarten enrollment and looking at all programmatic options.”
The ECC, which currently operates at Fairfield Warde High School and Stratfield Elementary, has seen its enrollment numbers almost double in the last 10 years.
According to enrollment data, there were around 80 students in 2009 and 161 by the end of the 2017-18 school year.
“Our biggest challenge is that the growth (at the ECC) has been very fast and we have to have space for children,” Jones said. ‘We have space in elementary schools where we’ve worked on expansion and renovation and we did a thorough search to see what we could do.”
Board of Education members discussed the proposed recommendations at the May 7 meeting.
“What’s the reasoning as to moving out of the Warde site?,” Board member Trisha Pytko said. “It’s already designed for the ECC and its functional, why leave it?”
The recommendation to move the ECC from Warde to Holland Hill for the 2020-21 school year is based on enrollment numbers, Jones said. According to school administrators, Warde High School is meant for 1,400 students and there are currently 1,484 at the facility.
The idea of building a facility solely for ECC students, while considered, seems improbable due to high costs and an uncertain planning and construction timeline.
“In this economic climate, the questions are ‘would we be able to find land to build another ECC?’ and it would be so far out in the waterfall (the district’s long-term capital item planning) and we have a need for this right now,” Jones noted.
Mill Hill Elementary, also an option the board could consider down the road, is expected to open by the 2022-23 school year though the Board of Selectmen next week could render a decision on the proposed school size, something that could affect redistricting and enrollment patterns in the district.
At a meeting back in February , the board, in an unofficial vote, saw a majority of its members in favor of maintaining an ECC program between two sites.
Jones said that the education board would discuss the program plans at their upcoming meetings, scheduled for May 21 and June 11, ahead of a decision on the matter.