Westport school board considers two-year wait on redistricting
WESTPORT — With a little under two weeks before a scheduled decision on redistricting, the Board of Education indicated Wednesday it would maintain the status quo for the next two years.
This came after Anthony Buono, assistant superintendent of schools, gave a presentation on enrollment projections in the absence of a consultant from New England School Development Council.
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NESDEC noted a decline of 600 students over the next five years, which Buono said was a significant decline. However, these numbers come as a result of projections being built around this year’s drastic drop in enrollment.
Milone & Macbroom representatives previously identified the drop in enrollment this year as an anomaly and did not base their projections around it. The firm comparatively projected a decline of over 200 students over the next five years.
The discrepancy in numbers were a cause of concern for BOE members and residents.
David Greely, a Westport resident, said the new enrollment projections by NESDEC did not include a lot of outside factors.
“You can see in recent years the kindergarten enrollments have been a little more stable because we had a big increase of kids moving in,” Greely said. “There’s no prediction of that.”
He argued the analysis didn’t account for the number of students that join Westport’s public schools in later years. Greely said sixth-grade classes are typically 15% to 20% larger than what they started off as in kindergarten.
“We’ve got a lot of kids coming in and this analysis ignores that,” he said. “For us it’s not very good especially in a period where there’s a lot of changes.”
In light of the discrepancy in numbers and the BOE receiving numerous emails arguing against the latest split-feeder scenario, some BOE members were prepared to vote against making any redistricting changes.
BOE member Lee Goldstein said after coming off a tumultuous year, there were many unresolved matters the district needed to handle first — ranging from reopening Coleytown Middle School to hiring a permanent superintendent.
“I don’t think it’s a good time to make a decision of this magnitude when we don’t have the fundamentals,” she said.
Many board members also favored a two-year plan if or when redistricting is revisited.
“Any district that makes a change that’s this drastic or has such repercussions would do it in a roll-out pattern that would allow for proper planning and preparation,” BOE Vice-Chair Jeannie Smith said.
However, with no plans for a vote on the agenda and public comment scheduled for a special meeting on Monday, the board decided to move forward with an official vote Dec. 16.
A new motion, which newly appointed BOE Chairman Candice Savin said she would be further editing, will state the board’s plans to maintain the current educational model and attendance zones upon the anticipated reopening of Coleytown for the 2020-2021 school year.
The board will discuss the motion further on Monday before the public comment portion of its meeting.
“Make no mistake, however we proceed this is going to be a very tough budget year,” Interim Superintendent David Abbey said. “This is going to be complex and hard work.”