Options floated, but no consensus on Coleytown redistricting
WESTPORT — While no vote was held, the Board of Education again discussed potential redistricting for Coleytown Middle School at its meeting Monday night.
Members previously issued a statement at their July 15 meeting that Coleytown would remain a sixth- to eighth-grade middle school with a caveat for potential redistricting or realignment to balance its class sizes in relation to Bedford Middle School.
BOE members have also heard several presentations from consultant Milone & MacBroom on redistricting scenarios, with outlines on the various potential impacts.
Anthony Buono, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, gave a presentation to BOE members outlining four potential options for Coleytown’s planned reopening in 2020.
“I have been looking at them through the lens of need and impact, as well as pragmatically what that means for the district,” Buono said of the alternatives.
The options ranged from maintaining the current district configuration to a change in the Coleytown’s feeder pattern that would see Long Lots Elementary School and Coleytown Elementary School feed into the middle school.
“It’s really important to establish a stable enrollment at each school and each grade,” Buono said. “If the enrollment changes a lot there’s going to be different needs for staffing and that’s really going to create challenges for us.”
Following the presentation, member Candice Savin said she was slightly frustrated because she had hoped direction and guidance would be given from education leaders for the best path for Coleytown.
“I know it’s our job to vote and decide but I want that to be grounded in what’s best for our schools,” Savin said.
Interim Superintendent David Abbey said his staff had spent the summer reviewing the alternatives and wanted to brief the community at a public setting.
He added the best option he currently sees for Coleytown is to have the preschool moved to Long Lots with additional pocket redistricting.
“We have a preschool space issue regardless of what the board decided. This is the last year I think we can ask Coleytown Elementary School to absorb the preschool,” Abbey said. “I saw tonight as a way to share with the community and share with the board where we are.”
Abbey said if the board wished for Coleytown to redistrict in the 2021 school year, a plan would need to be finalized by January. He added it was important a deliberative and thoughtful process was held for a decision of this magnitude.
“We haven’t solved the problem with these four options,” Abbey said. “What I suggested was the one in my mind that has the greatest promise.”
BOE member Vik Muktavaram said the district currently has an educational model that works. With many of the cons being similar with other alternatives, he questioned the need for redistricting to fit an educational model.
“More than the education model, I think the question that needs to be asked is how do we preserve the quality of education and can that be achieved in the current model,” he said.
Buono said it was important all options continued to be explored before a final decision was made.
“I think we’re in a good place. I think we have enough time and I think it’s important to make a thoughtful process,” Buono said. “Sometimes that takes several iterations. ... That’s where we are now.”
Several Long Lots parents voiced concern for how redistricting could affect their families.
John Klinge, Representative Town Meeting member for District 7, said Long Lots is in his district and he was worried how redistricting could affect the school and town.
He added he has over a decade of experience in Westport classrooms with the current model.
“I’m a big believer in the way it works now,” Klinge said. “Things that aren’t broken should be very carefully fixed. As doctors say, do no harm.”