School board talks timeline for redistricting decision
WESTPORT — As the discussion for potential redistricting continues, the Board of Education discussed a rough timeline for any potential decision at their meeting Tuesday night.
Anthony Buono, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said the discussion of balancing the schools will remain a standing item on the BOE’s agenda until the end of December.
“I believe this is probably going to require a number of iterations to reach a point for the board to feel comfortable voting on a decision.” Buono said.
The timeline is solely for a decision on redistricting, which Buono said may not even occur next year.
“It’s a decision to make a plan and what timeline would be necessary for that plan,” he said.
The next step is a meeting on Sept. 16, where demographers are scheduled to discuss an option that would see the preschool moved to Long Lots Elementary School, with additional pocket redistricting.
In October teachers and administrators will be able to give their input on any potential redistricting at a yet-to-be scheduled meeting. Buono said input from the school’s community was important before any potential decision was made in December.
“More specifically those teachers and administrators that would be impacted by any changes, but all are welcomed to attend,” Buono said of the meetings.
With Coleytown Middle School on schedule to re-open in August, BOE Chair Mark Mathias said logistics needed to be worked out before budget season.
“One of the reasons we have a Dec. 16 meeting is that we need to get these things defined into the budget,” Mathias said, adding the planning needed to be done to reflect financial impacts.
BOE member Candice Savin said with a decision not planned until December she was concerned about shifting board members after the upcoming election.
“I was always worried that this was going to go so long that some people are going to be on this board that weren’t immersed in this,” Savin said. “I would like to see this move a little faster if possible.”
On Nov. 11, the BOE will give a first read of a potential re-balancing plan. According to the rough timeline the earliest date for a vote currently would be on Dec. 2.
BOE member Vik Muktavaram said with a decision that could make a large impact there may be a need for opportunities outside of meetings for community input.
“I believe ultimately in the long run the decision we make will be the right one, but in the short run it could potentially impact some families,” Muktavaram said. “For that reason, I think an extra emphasis on transparency and fairness in the process is important.”
He added it may be important to have the town’s financing bodies weigh in on before any decision.
Several board members echoed Muktavaram’s sentiments and agreed more opportunities for community input could be helpful. Buono also agreed with the sentiment, and noted the current timeline could change.
“This is sort of a guideline here,” he said. “I don’t see anything etched in stone by any stretch of the imagination.”
Courtney Feldman, a Westport teacher and resident, said she was very concerned for students if any redistricting occurred.
“Without getting into specifics I do believe this could cause emotional trauma on them,” she said, adding it’s important the community is allowed to give input throughout the process.
Sandy Krenzer, co-president of Long Lots PTA, said 25 percent of LLS families could be adversely affected if pocket redistricting occurs and the pre-school is moved to LLS.
“As you know pocket redistricting is one of the hardest things school districts go through,” she said.
Krenzer said it was also important the board reviews all options before making any final decision.
“For the families affected this is a tremendous change,” she said. “I think if you accept grandfathering options within reason this will be very helpful to the families affected.”