Weston BOE discusses going down to three schools

The Weston Board of Education held a virtual public forum on Tuesday to field questions from residents on the budget process. Taken Jan. 26, 2021.

The Weston Board of Education held a virtual public forum on Tuesday to field questions from residents on the budget process. Taken Jan. 26, 2021.

DJ Simmons/Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTON — School officials and residents discussed closing one of the district’s schools as it considers the upcoming budget, but officials cautioned any decision on it would take time.

The Board of Education addressed the subject and others as they fielded questions from residents on the proposed schools budget during a virtual forum on Tuesday.

One of the major discussions of the forum was a decision to hold off on reductions for some of the middle school’s proposed projects. The decision comes amid talks of the district’s current makeup, and whether or not moving to three schools is feasible. While no decision has been made, the Weston Middle School has been discussed most as the school to possibly close.

But BOE Chair Tony Pesco said the time it may take to come to an ultimate decision was too long to hold off on fixing immediate needs for Weston Middle School.

“This project has kind of morphed into a longer project,” Pesco said . “I think what’s going to come out of the town-wide facilities optimization committee is a plan, and more of a long-term plan, for the configuration of our campus which is going to require capital, maybe even bonding.”

Kenneth Craw, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, cautioned even if the decision was made to move to three schools a change would not be as swift as some think. He said previous studies show there is not enough classroom space available at other schools to simply redistribute middle school students without some building construction.

“There’s also some programmatic adjustments that would be made,” Craw said.

Dan Doak, Weston Middle School principal, said the middle school does need attention but it is fulfilling programmatic needs. He also highlighted there has been a number of recent investments into the building, but similarly noted it would be a challenge to move students around.

“One of the things that COVID-19 has really brought home to me is we don’t have tons of space,” Doak said.

Residents also questioned increasing the budget after a challenging year and efficiencies that could be found by working with neighboring districts.

“I’ve never voted against an increase in the school budget as I feel like our schools are our town’s best asset,” said Stephanie Schafer, a Weston resident. “However, I’ve been unable to work this year because of the public school schedule and we’ve started exploring private school options for our two children.”

Mckersie said collaboration with neighboring districts to find cost savings is a common topic, but it posed challenges.

“It is very difficult to come up with those efficiencies because of the need to deliver locally based on local needs,” he said.

Mckersie said administration is still enthused about the town’s direction, and its commitment to find and optimize what the best future footprint is for Weston schools.

“They’re just saying you can’t do it tomorrow or you can’t do it by next year if you want to do it in a way of excellence,” he said.

The BOE is expected to vote on the budget on Thursday.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com