Weston school board approves extra first-grade section

The Weston Board of Education held its monthly meeting via Zoom on Tuesday to discuss reopening, enrollment projections and more.

The Weston Board of Education held its monthly meeting via Zoom on Tuesday to discuss reopening, enrollment projections and more.

DJ Simmons /Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTON — The Board of Education unanimously approved an extra first grade section to accommodate rising enrollment in the school district.

“The enrollment continues to be very, very good news,” Superintendent William Mckersie said at a school board meeting this week.

Enrollment is up 2.58 percent — or an additional 58 students — compared with last year, he said.

“The growth is across the grades,” Mckersie said. “You’re seeing cohort growth, meaning not just grade-to-grade but a lot of new families and students coming in.”

The influx of new families fulfilled a prediction some made in the spring of Weston’s attractiveness to families moving from more densely populated areas because of COVID-19, he said. The enrollment numbers also highlighted the district’s significance despite lingering concerns of reopening from some staff, Mckersie said.

“I had 230 on a Zoom Friday and I said, ‘Please take this giant compliment. People all over this region are moving to Weston because they see this as a safe place and high-quality education place for their children, and that is due to all of you, our staff,’” Mckersie said.

In an update on school reopening, he said 311 students — or 13.6 percent district-wide — have chosen to start school from home through videoconferencing.

“We are working very, very hard to make this a full and robust program for the families who have selected voluntary distance learning,” he said. “I do need to repeat — for all our hard work on this, it is one of the most challenging things that the state has designed for us.”

The BOE supported the addition of a section, but BOE Chair Tony Pesco said he was concerned about losing fiscal discipline because of COVID-related expenses.

“I think that’s a discussion — not necessarily for tonight — but I think that’s a discussion that’s going to be had over the next couple of months,” he said. “We’re going to basically have to understand how we’re going to mitigate whatever deficit spending we do at this point of the year.”

BOE member Ruby Hedge said she had the most concern for Hurlbutt Elementary’s staff and students. She said teachers will have to juggle the concerns of three types of students: students learning in-person, students at home on their off-day learning on their own and those entirely distance learning.

“I just think that’s a lot of pressure on a teacher to be thinking about, accommodating, supporting, helping, those three types of students,” Hedge said. “In this particular situation, the more support we can give to that particular grade, even if they’re on the cusp, I support. I think the little ones need it for sure.”