Board hopes for decision on elementary school configuration by mid-October
The Milford Board of Education has been working on a long and a short range plan that is expected to see several changes to the way Milford’s schools are configured.
With several options before them, the board hopes to make a decision by Oct. 13 regarding the way the elementary schools will be configured in the 2015-16 school year. The schools are currently arranged as sister schools, some housing grades K-2 and others housing grades 3 to 5. Parents have been vocal in opposing the current arrangement, and a Long Range Study Committee in March suggested returning that to a K-5 setup.
According to School Board Chairman Susan Glennon, the board has been working through the recommendations made by the Long Range Planning Committee. Those options include a Pre-K to grade five structure in six or seven schools, a K-8 specialty school, and two high schools with a specialty school housed within each.
“In addition, the board has asked Milone and Macbroom for a synthesis of what PreK-6 in eight schools and grades 7-8 in two schools might look like,” Glennon said at a recent school board meeting.
Long Range Planning Committee workshops are scheduled for July 28 and Aug. 11, and there will be public information sessions, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 23 and 29. The two public information sessions will give residents a chance to comment on the plans.
“We hope to have a decision by Oct. 13 on the short-term plan that will be implemented no sooner than 2015-16,” Glennon said. “I still cannot say exactly what that plan will look like, but we know as far as elementary goes it will be a plan with fewer transitions than we have now. Regarding pre-school, the current assumption is that all Pre-K classes will be decentralized to two or three schools across the district, rather than being housed all together like they are now at Orange Avenue School.”
The other given is city-wide redistricting to balance all the elementary schools, Glennon said.
In March, a Long Range Planning Committee presented a comprehensive study and report to the Milford Board of Education.
In the short term, the Long Range Planning Committee suggested returning the city schools to the neighborhood school format that a number of residents have been asking for. The schools are currently organized into K-2/3-5 configurations.
The committee presented several alternatives for short term and long term changes
Short term preference
The committee's short term preference calls for eliminating the K-2/3-5 elementary school configuration and returning to a Pre-K to 5 configuration, no sooner than the 2015-16 school year.
The committee's preferred short term alternative would put Pre-K to grade five in seven elementary schools. That means one school may close, but the proposal does not recommend which one.
Some of the planning committee's options had two elementary schools closing, leaving six elementary schools.
It will be up to the Board of Education to decide which if any schools will close, and when.
Under the preferred short term plan, three middle schools would remain: East Shore, Harborside and West Shore, serving grades 6 to 8. And there would be two high schools, Foran and Jonathan Law, serving grades 9 to 12.
The short-term recommendation will require some redistricting, with an aim toward keeping direct feeders into the middle schools, if possible, and balancing elementary school enrollment and class size across the district, school officials said. Phasing in redistricting or grandfathering some students will be considered.
Redistricting will also focus on “adhering to natural boundaries and retaining neighborhood and school identities to the greatest extent possible.”
The committee also said it wanted to keep student travel time to a minimum.
Long term options
There are two key recommendations for long term changes: The committee's preference would keep two high schools, Foran and Law, for grades 9 to 12. East Shore and West Shore middle schools would serve grades 6 to 8, and Harborside would be a specialty school serving students in grades K-8. There could be six elementary schools under this scenario, serving K-5 or Pre-K to 5.
A second alternative is similar, but minus the specialty K-8 school at Harborside. In this scenario, there would be two high schools for grades 9 to 12 (Foran and Law); the three current middle schools for grades 6 to 8, and seven elementary schools for grades K-5 or Pre-K to 5.
Both plans call for creating a “school within a school” at the high school level, meaning there would be some kind of specialty program within the high schools.