Fairfield school officials are awaiting feedback from the state Department of Education on their efforts to adhere to its requirement for racial balance.

"We've been hounding the state give us something in writing on how we stand with this," Superintendent of Schools David Title told the Board of Education on Tuesday.

To address racial imbalance -- as defined by state criteria -- at McKinley School, the Board of Education in February 2011 approved a plan to move that school's preschool program to Fairfield Warde High School's Early Childhood Center to lower its number of minority students from 28.7 percent to within a state-mandated 25 percent. The plan, which received support from state board members, also included expanding the program for low-income children at Burr School from 20 to 36 pupils.

Tiltle said McKinley is almost within the required minority limit at 26 percent since the transfer yet he has heard "second hand" that McKinley continues to be "out of racial balance from the state's definition."

"We're about one or two percentage points within compliance, which is where we were about a year ago," he said, adding that it is a moving number as students may elect to transfer out of McKinley under an original plan. "We're so close that it's a bit frustrating."

The state Department of Education expects to contact schools still on the imbalance list in the next few days, said department spokesman Jim Polites.

"Those racial balance comments are heading out to districts this week," he said.

The 2011 plan amends a previous strategy allowing students to "opt-out" of McKinley to attend other elementary schools in town after McKinley was included four years ago on a state list of schools over the required limit. The board also considered allowing students from other elementary schools to "opt-in" to McKinley.

The board approved the amended plan because it saves the district $100,000 a year by eliminating McKinley's pre-school program and achieved better racial balance.

The impact of students transferring to Burr is not seen in the latest percentage of minorities at McKinley, however, Title said.

In response to a question from board member Jennifer Kennelly, Director of Elementary Education Anna Cutaia-Leonard said 18 to 20 students from the McKinley district are opting to stay at Burr.

"That's a nice number," Title said. "That will help us."

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