State report: McKinley School still racially imbalanced
FAIRFIELD — The Board of Education is facing its own June deadline regarding plans to address racial imbalance and redistricting.
And the state is still knocking on the door.
The Connecticut State Board of Education published a Racial Imbalance Report for the 2018-19 school year in which a total of six schools are listed as not complying with state statutes and a dozen others that are nearing that status.
According to the report, racial imbalance is present “when the proportion of minority students for any school exceeds 25 percentage points more than the comparable proportion for the school district.”
The report puts McKinley School with a minority population of 55.48 percent out of a total of 438 students, while the district as a whole has a 25.63 percent minority population with 4,160 students, a number that includes “all students in schools, programs and out-place facilities.”
In September of 2017, the state Board of Education conditionally approved Fairfield’s potential plan of making McKinley School a magnet program for redistricting, ideas that are still being discussed at the local board level.
“The (Fairfield BOE) expects that this plan will enable the district to attract students from other attendance zones and that additional non-minority students could enroll in such a magnet program, resulting in a reduction of the school’s minority population by approximately two to three percentage points,” the report reads.
Fairfield Schools Superintendent Toni Jones, who starts her new role in Greenwich next month, said she was pleased that the state has acknowledged that Fairfield continues to follow its submitted plan.
“The only challenge going forward could be the lack of a 504 enrollment construction project at Mill Hill which was part of the submission,” Jones said. “However, the state Board of Education will most certainly understand that the lack of adhering to this aspect of the plan was not a BOE decision and that the BOE has not wavered on their request.”
The state’s report alludes to the Mill Hill renovation project — a facility the Fairfield Board of Education had advocated be a 504-size school but could result in being a 441 size school.
“The Fairfield BOE anticipates that, upon completion of the Holland Hill and Mill Hill expansion projects, it will be able to revise school attendance areas to balance enrollments across the various elementary schools and to reduce significantly the extent of the minority student disparity between the McKinley School and the other elementary schools,” the report states.
According to the town’s BOE, McKinley’s minority population hovered around 45 percent from the 2010-11 to the 2015-16 school year, whereas the district’s percentage of minority population has been around 19 percent.
When a school is identified as racially imbalanced, the respective school district must “file a plan to correct the imbalance.”
Other schools like Charter Oak Academy in West Hartford, New Lebanon School in Greenwich, and Church Street School in Hamden are also listed as being racially imbalanced.
McKinley has been out of the state-acceptable range for the past several school years now; the school was tagged as imbalanced back in April 2007.
Members from the Board of Education, including Jones and former superintendent David Title, have presented options to the state board at Hartford about plans to address the issue spanning back to early 2017.
In the fall of last year, the town’s education board gave itself a June 2019 deadline to adopt certain goals, including action on a “desired comprehensive redistricting model to be utilized to resolve overcrowding and racial imbalance.”
The Board of Education has yet to vote on its “guiding principles” — specific goals and objectives provided to consultants for its redistricting plans — which are still being drafted.
The board is expected to receive more input as the guiding principles are finalized and voted on in the coming weeks; the board meets next on June 25.