Parents not happy with elementary school redistricting options

Some parents who spoke at a Milford elementary school redistricting workshop Tuesday, Feb. 17, asked the Board of Education not to move forward with any of the options presented so far by the consulting group Milone and MacBroom.

Other parents asked the school board to consider various factors if they do select one of the options, such as allowing students going into fifth grade next year to stay at their current school even if redistricting places them in a different school district.

Next school year the elementary schools are expected to go from the current K-2/3-5 configuration to a K-5 configuration, with preK at four of the schools. An imbalance in student populations between the west side and east side of town required redistricting.

Parents in general who spoke Tuesday night said they aren’t happy that so many students will be moved from the schools they are currently in under the redistricting options.

Rebecca Augur, of Milone and MacBroom, responded to the comments by saying there is a lot of movement because the schools on the west side of town have a greater number of students than the schools on the east side. The student population in Milford is declining, but it is declining faster on the east side, she explained.

“We need to shift students toward the east where you have room,” Augur said.

She said that under one of the preferred redistricting options, 85% of students stay in their current district. But one parent said that to those other 15%, the redistricting “is a big deal.”

Chris Thomas, one parent who spoke at Tuesday's meeting at Jonathan Law High School, said the options presented so far make it look like there was no attempt to keep friends together in the same school. He said he would like to see more options.

“We’re still paying for the sins of closing the wrong school,” he said, referring to the closing of Simon Lake Elementary School in 2010.

Sarah Wardman said she was “blind-sided” when she looked at the redistricting plans and realized her children, who live a half mile from Calf Pen Meadow School, will go to Orchard Hills next year.

“This move for my family does not make sense,” she said, asking the Board of Education not to approve any of the plans.

Laura Katz said seeing so many dramatic changes in her child’s early education is “frustrating.” Her child was to be a fifth grader at Meadowside next year but now will be redistricted along with 12 other students from Meadowside to Calf Pen Meadow for her last year of elementary school.

“The final year in elementary school is a big deal for these kids,” Katz said.

She asked that next year’s fifth graders be grandfathered in and allowed to stay in their current school.

Cherie Agresti’s child is in the same boat. “Fifth grade is everything to them,” she said.

Board Chairman Susan Glennon asked the board to think about grandfathering those fifth graders.

“It warrants a little bit more conversation,” Glennon said, suggesting the board may need to think outside the box and possibly make one of the specialty classes, like art, a mobile class that moves from room to room rather than having its own classroom, or increasing class sizes to make room for those fifth graders for one year.

School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser said she will gather data on that idea and share it with the board.

Alderman Jennifer Federico made a similar request, asking for special consideration for the students from Mathewson and Calf Pen Meadow elementary schools who will have to go to a different middle school than most of their classmates when they leave fifth grade. Under the preferred redistricting option, students from those two schools would not all move on to the same middle school after fifth grade.

Federico asked if it might be possible to give the students in those two situations a choice of which middle school they attend.

Feser said administrators can give that some thought, but she said it is more complex than grandfathering the fifth graders because it would impact staffing.

One mother asked the board to look carefully at the Point Beach neighborhood, which is being moved to a different elementary school under one of the redistricting plans.

Two parents raised the issue of before- and after-school child care, saying the programs they use now won’t be available at the school their children would be redistricted to.

Assistant Supt. Mike Cummings said he will look into that and try to resolve the child care issue.

Parents can view the redistricting information presented to the board by going to the school board website, There are maps showing the proposed district lines so parents can see which elementary school their children would attend under the various proposals.

There will be a Board of Education Committee of the Whole meeting about redistricting Monday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m., at Milford City Hall.