In protest vote, BOE adjusts plans with a 441-size Mill Hill School
FAIRFIELD — The Board of Education, since February of last year, had approved and planned for a 504-student Mill Hill School.
That planning was upended in the last few weeks when the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance, in a series of split votes, approved $22 million for a 441-student Mill Hill School.
Some Board of Education members did not hide their discontent at the Board of Finance meeting that ended after 1 a.m.
“There’s a lot that happened at the June 4 meeting that I was obviously unhappy with, first and foremost with the final decision,” Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly said at the June 11 meeting.
Members of the Board of Finance in favor of a 441-size school said that they had safety concerns for the neighborhood, that the Board of Education had no approved redistricting or racial imbalance plan yet and that enrollment projections did not show Mill Hill being over or near capacity in the future years.
An amendment made at the finance meeting to provide funding for a 504 size school failed in a 4-5 vote; all three Democrats and one Republican, David Becker, supported the amendment.
Ultimately, the board unanimously approved funding for the 441 school after the amendment failed.
Specifically, the Board of Education was to issue a vote on changing their planning from 24 to 21 classrooms at the Mill Hill School given the reduction from the two other town boards.
Maxon-Kennelly asked if anything else could be done to carve out another classroom within the Mill Hill schematics though other members said it would be a difficult task and Tom Quinn, chairman of the building committee, said they would look at such if the budget and costs allowed for it.
“The greatest challenge we face right now is the June 30 deadline,” Superintendent Toni Jones said as other members and the chairman of the Mill Hill Building Committee remarked on obstacles to making changes in advance of the month’s end.
Though members were in favor of seeing the Mill Hill project move forward, some opted to vote against the education specifics change in order to send a message.
“The disrespect that (members of the Board of Finance) showed to our staff and our building committee and our chairperson was too obvious,” member Phil Dwyer said. “I apologize on behalf of this community that our superintendent had to sit through that.”
Dwyer, along with Jennifer Leeper and Jennifer Jacobsen voted against the measure to change the educational specifics.
“There ought to be a voice that says they made a mistake...they took political considerations rather than factual,” Dwyer said. “I want the project to move forward...the building committee showed that those three extra classrooms would be cost effective.”
The item passed in a 5-3 vote.
“The Board of Finance is to decide money to stay in that lane and not get into the business of our plans,” member Jennifer Jacobsen said.
In late May, the Board of Selectmen voted 2-1 to approve the 441 size school. Selectmen Ed Bateson and Chris Tymniak voted in favor of the funding while First Selectman Mike Tetreau said he supported a 504 size school.
The Representative Town Meeting will consider and review the bonding resolution next at their June 24 meeting.