If Stamford builds a new K-8 school and closes others, your child’s middle, high school destinations might change

Photo of Ignacio Laguarda

STAMFORD — It was only one slide in a presentation on the future of Stamford’s schools, but it got plenty of attention.

The graphic showed how Stamford’s feeder system could work under a new ambitious plan that would involve closing five school buildings, expanding two elementary schools into K-8 facilities and building two new K-8 facilities. With so many changes planned, the school system would undergo redistricting and the way some schools feed into others would be modified.

Currently, all elementary schools feed into specific middle schools and high schools. Davenport Ridge Elementary School, for example, feeds into Rippowam Middle School, followed by Stamford High School.

Under the proposed plan, however, students at Davenport would go to Turn of River Middle School, followed by Westhill High School.

The suggested system is one of many possibilities that arose from a master plan developed by architecture and design firm SLAM Collaborative. The group hosted several recent virtual public meetings to go over the specifics of the plan and to field questions from community members.

The proposed feeder pattern is far from set in stone, but changes would be necessary if some schools were to close.

“With a shift of retirement of school buildings as well as adding more K-8 schools, we wanted to take a look at the feeder pattern itself,” said Mike Zuba, director of public education master planning for SLAM.

So when will a new feeder system be put in place?

According to Kemp Morhardt, a principal at SLAM, the target is the 2027-28 school year. That’s the year the city is hoping to have completed most of the major school construction projects and closed four buildings: Cloonan Middle School, Dolan Middle School, KT Murphy Elementary School and Toquam Magnet Elementary School.

A fifth school, Hart Elementary, would also be abandoned, as a new Hart facility would be built at the current location of Cloonan and would be a K-8 school.

By 2027-28, the district is also hoping to have completed changes to Roxbury Elementary School, either renovating and expanding it or constructing a new building, expanded Westover Magnet Elementary School and built a brand new K-8 school in south Stamford.

Finding a location south of Interstate 95 for a new school has proven to be tricky so far, as space is limited. An initial study of the feasibility of Cove Island Park as the site for the school was quickly dropped after major push back from residents and the Audubon Society.

Other changes to the feeder system include switching Stillmeadow Elementary School from Cloonan and Westhill to Rippowam and Stamford High. Springdale Elementary School students would go to Turn of River and Westhill under the new plan, instead of Dolan and Stamford High, the current setup.

The elementary schools that currently feed into Cloonan or Dolan would seemingly be the most affected, since both of those middle schools are expected to close.

Students at Julia A. Stark Elementary School would switch middle schools — from Dolan to Rippowam — but would remain as part of the feeder to Stamford High.

The tentative new south Stamford K-8 school would be assigned to Stamford High under the proposed model.

Newfield and Northeast elementary schools would remain unchanged. Northeast feeds into Turn of River and Westhill currently, while Newfield students attend Rippowam and Stamford High.

One question posed during the second public meeting was what would happen to a student at Westhill if their elementary feeder school switches to Stamford High while they are in high school.

Amy Beldotti, associate superintendent for teaching and learning, said past practice dictates that the student would stay put until completing high school. Incoming freshmen, however, would be placed in the appropriate school based on the updated feeder system.

“Historically, that is what we have done in Stamford,” she said.

Some parents wondered why certain elementary schools were switched from Stamford High to Westhill, and vice versa.

“The aim was to really kind of level off the enrollment and try to keep continuity ... keeping those peer groups as much as you can intact,” Zuba responded.

Beldotti said getting feedback from parents, such as comments related to the proximity between schools that feed into one another, was the whole purpose of holding the public meetings.

“We’re taking notes and taking feedback and these are things that are still in the early stages of planning,” she said. “Comments like those are very helpful in our planning as we move forward.”