Redistricting, guiding principles top concerns at BOE town hall
FAIRFIELD — “Redistricting” and “guiding principles” were among the top buzz words at the Board of Education town hall Tuesday evening.
The town hall event at 501 Kings Highway E. drew more than 60 parents and educators who voiced their concerns on an array of topics including redistricting, the Early Childhood Center and facility updates, among others.
Many parents expressed their concern about the district’s guiding principles — at this point it is a draft and subject to changes — saying it was far from comprehensive and that parameters were needed as the process begins.
Last fall, the Board of Education gave itself a June 30, 2019 deadline to adopt several goals, including action on a “desired comprehensive redistricting model to be utilized to resolve overcrowding and racial imbalance.”
“I hope (that the input process on redistricting) would look at all different levels of schools — elementary, middle and high school,” Frank Sahagian, one of the more than 20 residents who gave public comment, said.
Board of Education members said that the guiding principles were still in the drafting process and that a vote — which has not been taken — would be necessary to make these guidelines official.
“All those discussions are still live topics,” Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly, board member, said about the guidelines. “We’re still very much taking that input and reflecting on conversation.”
These are: considering the impact on busing and walkers, that bus rides should not exceed one hour for special needs students, a target 30-40 minute bus ride average, phasing out all temporary solutions (like portables) when possible, headroom capacities at 90 percent and maintaining district guidelines for class size.
Jeff Peterson, who himself was redistricted in 1981, said this childhood experience would be something he would take into account as the process took form.
“I do have great hope that there will be much public input in the process as we go forward,” Peterson said.
Several residents also emphasized that walkers, students who live within a designated distance from their school and can walk to these, remain walkers amidst the redistricting process.
“We moved to our neighborhood to be walkers,” Matthew Ogurick, a parent, said. “It’s something that is concerning to our family and concerns others. Walkers should remain walkers.”
The Early Childhood Center, originally based at Fairfield Warde High School and scheduled to accept more students at its Stratfield Elementary School location next school year, was also a topic of concern.
Jerriann Mitchell, a speech language pathologist at the ECC since 2004 and advocate for the center, has previously criticized the upcoming model and tentative long-term plan of a two-site ECC, saying that a single-site is better suited for children and educators.
“We just respectfully ask that we be considered in the decision-making process, we look forward to seeing the ECC flourish and we’re just stronger together,” Mitchell said, asking if a committee would be formed.
Chairman Christine Vitale said there was currently no plan to have a committee going forward and that site suggestions had been made as part of a continuing conversation.
“This is not an easy issue to solve by any stretch of the imagination,” Philip Dwyer said, referring to an idea of repurposing an existing elementary school into a single ECC.
The Board of Education holds its next regular meeting May 7.