School board members are split on whether to close an elementary school as they move forward in adopting a long range plan for the city\u2019s schools. The board expects to make a final decision at its next business meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13, at City Hall. \u201cEven though we have worked toward reaching consensus during our workshops, formal adoption of the Long Range Plan, including whether to close an elementary school, must be voted on at a business meeting,\u201d said Board Chairman Susan Glennon (D-2). \u201cIt will be on the October 13 agenda.\u201d Based on an expected decline in enrollment from 6,256 students in 2014-15 to 5,384 students in 2020-21, the board's current long term plan calls for the following: \u2022 Changing to a K-5 elementary configuration beginning September of 2015. \u2022 System-wide redistricting to rebalance enrollment at the elementary level. \u2022 Placing pre-school classrooms in more than one site. \u2022 Closing Harborside Middle School in three to five years when the planned renovation and expansion at West Shore Middle School is complete. Elementary schools Board members were asked to share their views about closing an elementary school at a board workshop last week. According to draft meeting minutes, the members expressed various opinions. Anthony Piselli (R-3) said he believes an elementary school should close because it is the fiscally responsible thing to do. Dr. Heidi Gold- Dworkin (D-4) said she thinks the number of rooms being allocated for programming is excessive and new programs could be accommodated in seven schools. She suggested giving elementary students computer tablets or laptops to use in the classrooms in lieu of dedicated computer labs. John DeRosa (R-1) supports closing an elementary school, according to the meeting minutes. Suzanne DiBiase (R-5) said she is unsure. Earl Whiskeyman (D-4) cautioned that enrollment could stay flat or increase, adding that it would be much harder to regain the space once it is turned over to the city. Robert Satti (D-3) said he does not want to close an elementary school. Jennifer Federico (D-2) does not support closing two schools, and said there are better cost savings and economies of scale in closing a middle school. She said the existing eight schools will be balanced with equity and parity. Laura Fucci (D-4) said she believes elementary level children need the student\/teacher connection. She also said that closing a school would give a less than community feel than the parents and residents are seeking. Glennon said she believes the board is being fiscally responsible by closing Harborside only. Redistricting School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser explained that the school system has never undertaken redistricting at this level. \u201cThis redistricting will impact every school,\u201d meeting minutes quote her as saying. \u201cThere are no staff members with the expertise or capacity to do this work and the school system does not have the needed software to do it properly.\u201d Feser suggested a consultant be hired who understands the work. Glennon said Milone and MacBroom, which has been working with the board on the long term plan, is able to do the redistricting work within the short time frame at a cost of $44,000. She added that opening up the bidding process to other interested companies could take longer, putting the board at risk of not meeting the timeline for kindergarten registration. She also said other company bids would likely be higher than Milone and MacBroom\u2019s. Fucci, Federico, Whiskeyman, Satti and DiBiase said they support working with Milone and MacBroom, while Gold-Dworkin, DeRosa and Piselli said they would prefer seeking other bids, according to minutes from the meeting. Earlier questions The Board of Education posted answers to residents\u2019 questions about long-range plans on the Milford Board of Education website. The questions were raised at a recent long range plan meeting, which was arranged to share information and gather resident input. Responding to a resident\u2019s question, school officials said they expect the student population will fit into two middle schools. \u201cOur projected middle school population in 2018-19 is 1,293 students for grades 6 to 8,\u201d according to the website. \u201cMiddle school enrollment is expected to decline further to around 1,150 students in 2021-22. \u201cEast Shore has a capacity for 650 students. An addition at West Shore would bring capacity there to 700 to 750 students and ensure enough space for the expected number of middle school students,\u201d the website continues. The City of Milford owns the city schools. If the board adopts a plan that includes closing Harborside, the building will be turned back over to the city. Any decision for its use will be made by city leaders, school officials said. In terms of redistricting, the board expects to have school boundaries identified by March of 2015 so incoming kindergarten children can register in the proper school. The specific redistricting process will be defined once the final plan is adopted. One parent asked if plans to close Harborside will impact renovations at West Shore Middle School. The board responded, \u201cIn order to accommodate grade 6 \u2013 8 students in two schools, the plans to renovate West Shore will have to include additional classrooms if Harborside is to close. The Capital Improvement Plan, which the board adopted in May 2014, includes an estimated $19,500,000 for previously planned renovations of the existing facility. \u201cThe specific cost for additional classrooms is not known at this time,\u201d school officials said. School officials also noted that during the summer the board looked at a K-6 option that included only two middle schools. \u201cAs the board began to consider closing a middle school, it became clear one school on the west side of town and one school on the east side of town made sense, as this would work with a direct feeder system that parents desire,\u201d according to the board website. \u201cWest Shore has been slated for renovation on the Capital Improvement Plan for some time, but going forward with the plans was put on hold pending the outcome of the Long Range Plan. Once the renovation and expansion are completed, we will have two newly renovated schools in West Shore Middle School and East Shore Middle School, and given the capacity of both, there will be no need for a third middle school.\u201d There are key reasons why Harborside was considered the school to close, and those include location, lack of space for expansion and renovation costs, school officials said.