Fairfield BOE postpones vote on ECC timeline plan to next meeting
FAIRFIELD — The Early Childhood Center is currently split between Fairfield Warde High School and Stratfield Elementary School.
But with a burgeoning population that has doubled in the past decade and is only expected to go up, administrators have scratched their heads pondering short and long-term solutions.
According to data, there are 172 students pre-enrolled at the ECC for the next school year. The program — which has a total of 16 sections — has a capacity for 240 students and enrollment is projected to rise in coming years.
More students are slated to be sent to Stratfield Elementary this upcoming September as board members continue to mull over the center’s next five to 10 years, a process that could potentially see the center be split among three locations.
According to proposals, the ECC would have a location at Holland Hill, North Stratfield and a tentative third site at Stratfield for the 2020-21 school year.
For the 2021-22 school year, the ECC would be split between Holland Hill and North Stratfield Elementary.
Various members of the public asked that the board delay its vote on the item at the June 11 meeting, calling for more information and more input from the community.
Katy Flynn, a parent, asked that the voting item be removed from the meeting’s agenda.
“What about the Warde facility? Is there room at Holland Hill and North Stratfield for growth of the ECC program? The ECC is a wonderful program and asset to our community,” Flynn said.
Though the board was scheduled to vote on the ECC timeline, members continued to question the logistics of certain facilities and whether the center should be completely phased out at Warde, its original location.
“I’ve wrestled with this a lot,” board member Jeff Peterson said. “I’ve been reluctant all along to abandon the Warde facility.”
Board member Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly suggested the vote be postponed to the June 25 meeting in an effort to have a more clear, written out agenda item regarding the short-term ECC plan.
“This is not a rushed decision at all, we’ve been having this conversation,” member Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly said. “When we’re talking about a decision like this, I believe everyone should be notified...so we know exactly what we’re talking about.”
At previous meetings, board members have discussed the tentative plans with concerns as to school utilization and capacity, particularly to those facilities where school populations are approaching their limits.
Though parents and ECC staff have advocated for a single, centralized ECC, the chances of such are essentially nil as the board, in an informal vote in February, favored a two-site ECC.
The recent decisions from the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance to approve funding for a 441-size school has also thrown a wrench in the plans of the education board which had advocated for a 504-student school since last year.
“When we started this multi-location talk, it was predicated on Mill Hill being a 504 school,” board member Nick Aysseh said. “Now we have a different situation on where we’re moving forward.”