Fairfield BOE reiterates its hopes for future of Mill Hill School
FAIRFIELD — The Board of Education responded on Tuesday to requests from the boards of Selectmen and Finance for more information on the size to which Mill Hill School should be rebuilt.
“I don’t really like the idea of other town bodies trying to do the Board of Ed’s work and telling us how to do our job,” said Board of Education member Nick Aysseh at a special meeting to address the future of Mill Hill School, for which $1.5 million in seed money was approved earlier this year.
Presented with plans approved by the Board of Education to build a 504-student-capacity school — based on 2016 enrollment projections provided by consultants Milone & MacBroom — the Board of Selectmen was unsatisfied at its April 20 meeting with what it said was a lack of information about future plans on redistricting and correcting the district’s racial imbalance issue. First Selectman Mike Tetreau acknowledged the Board of Education’s desire to build Mill Hill to a 504-student capacity, but wanted to know if the board had a backup plan if funding fell short and if smaller models — 378- or 441-student capacity — were feasible.
To the point on redistricting, the board voiced emphatically that it was several years too soon to look seriously at redistricting.
“Even if we were to come up with a redistricting plan that’s hypothetically years out, we can’t rely on that. By the time it’s time to implement, it’s no good,” Aysseh said.
“It’s completely inappropriate to the point on verging on unethical, I think, for us to irresponsibly propose a definitive plan at this time,” Board of Education member Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly said.
Using enrollment projections from Milone & MacBroom, board member Jessica Gerber said if Mill Hill was built as a 378, it would be at 96 percent capacity by 2020-21.
On resolving the district’s racial imbalance issue, board member Jennifer Jacobsen suggested responsibility to find a fix is unfairly placed on the Board of Education for what is ultimately a town issue.
“I want to know what the town plan is. What’s the town plan for school utilization and racial imbalance through permitting, zoning, building, construction? Because if you’re adding bedrooms where there’s no school space, but you don’t want to add school space, then how is that responsible town planning?” Jacobsen rhetorically asked the board.
The board collectively agreed there was essentially no other option than planning to build to 504 capacity, and the projected population growth alone was enough to justify the size.
“The demographics alone, the population issues alone — not redistricting, not racial imbalance — justify the 504 approach,” board member Jeff Peterson said.
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