Stratfield recommended as second childhood center location
FAIRFIELD — The Early Childhood Center might be split up between its current location — Fairfield Warde High School — and Stratfield Elementary School as soon as the beginning of the next school year.
Superintendent Toni Jones and Executive Director of Special Education Robert Mancusi, in a presentation to the Board of Education Tuesday, said this recommendation is part of a short-term solution to the growing number of students at the ECC.
“Once we finished evaluating school facilities, we came down to the best short-term option right now and the solution for August was recommending Stratfield School,” Jones said Wednesday afternoon. “We have two pre-kindergarten classes there now, it works well for us and that’s where we are right now and the board will make a final decision.”
According to the Tuesday presentation, the number of students at the ECC has grown steadily over the past nine years.
At the end of the 2009-10 school year, there were 75 students at the ECC. By the end of the 2017-18 school year, there were 161 students, more than double the amount nine years prior.
School officials looked at several facilities, including town-owned buildings like Operation Hope and Oldfield School, as possible host places for the program and eventually narrowed down the number to five elementary schools: McKinley, Burr, Holland Hill, North Stratfield and, the eventual recommendation, Stratfield.
Board of Education member Trisha Pytko inquired about the playground accessibility at Stratfield Elementary School.
“My concern is that some students at the ECC have physical challenges and taking stairs might not be ideal for them,” Pytko said.
Mancusi and Jones assured her that unique situations would be addressed at an individual level.
The public will be allowed to comment on the idea at the board’s next meeting, Jan. 8. Tuesday evening, however, there were few commenters.
“I appreciate the hard work you’re doing,” said Matthew Hallock, a Fairfield resident. “I was wondering about McKinley Elementary and moving and I thought maybe you could move the ECC there and solve the racial imbalance problem.”
Jones and Mancusi emphasized the need for a short-term solution and that long-range answers would require more input to reach an informed response. Some cursory options include building a new ECC facility or adding to the Mill Hill School project.
Jones said school officials had evaluated facilities with a rubric that included adequate parking, access for individuals with disabilities, play space and air conditioning. The superintendent assured the school board that if Stratfield does become the second location, all efforts would be made to keep both ECC program locations equal.
Already, there has been ECC spillover to Stratfield. As the facility at Fairfield Warde High School was at capacity, an additional ECC classroom was added at Stratfield School last school year bringing the total there up to two.
At previous Board of Education meetings, ECC staff and teachers have asked the board to remain with a centralized program though that has become more and more difficult with a growing student population.
“The ECC is at Warde High School only has six classrooms and we have plans for 10 by September of next year,” Jones said.
In the coming weeks, the Board of Education will take a tour of the facilities before making a final decision at their January meeting.
“We’re really excited about next year and excited to bring our teachers and have a higher peer-to-student ratio,” Jones said.