Public can comment on redistricting options at tonight's meeting

Feb. 17th: Special meeting to include information on transition planning, and public comment. Meeting takes place in the Jonathan Law auditorium starting at 7 p.m.

Students at Calf Pen Meadow Elementary School would continue to split in different directions, with some going to East Shore Middle School and some going to Harborside for middle school under one elementary school redistricting plan presented to the Board of Education Wednesday night.

Similarly, under that same plan students graduating from Mathewson Elementary School would split up too, with some moving on to West Shore Middle School and some going to Harborside Middle School.

While district lines for the middle schools will not change next school year, the elementary school reconfiguration and redistricting plan would create some situations like this.

Representatives of the firm Milone and MacBroom presented several elementary school redistricting options at Jonathan Law High School Wednesday night, and they explained that they tried to avoid anomalies, such as busing students to an elementary school when they were close enough to walk to another. In some cases, they amended their proposals to keep this type of anomaly out of the redistricting proposals.

Regarding elementary school students splitting up when they move on to middle school, officials said that's nothing new for Milford: Currently Meadowside splits to Harborside and West Shore, and Calf Pen already splits to Harborside and East Shore.

Under the preferred redistricting option, Meadowside would lie entirely in the West Shore Middle School district.

No redistricting plan has been adopted, though the Board of Education is looking at a rather tight schedule for approving one. Next school year the elementary schools are expected to go from the current K-2/3-5 configuration to a K-5 configuration, and an imbalance in student populations between the west side and east side of town required redistricting.

Also, four of the elementary schools are expected to have preK classes next school year.

“Simon Lake closed, and that created an imbalance on the west side of town because the Simon Lake students were simply absorbed by the schools on either side of them, which has over time created an imbalance between the east and west side,” said Board Chairman Susan Glennon.

“Plus enrollment projections say enrollment will decline more steeply on the east side,” Glennon added. “Housing is more dense on the west side, and all those factors contribute to the imbalance.”

Parents can view the information presented to the board by going to the school board website, milforded.org, or by clicking here. There are maps showing the proposed district lines so parents can see which elementary school their children would attend under the various proposals. Parents also can send comments and questions to pk5reconfiguration@milforded.org by Feb. 17.

Rebecca Augur, who works for Milone and MacBroom, explained that redistricting presented challenges because of the close proximity of some elementary schools to other elementary schools, and the desire to balance school populations despite the different sizes of the schools.

For example, Mathewson Elementary School is 8,000 square feet larger than Pumpkin Delight Elementary School, Augur said, explaining that it is difficult with those differences to create a plan with similar student populations.

The firm focused on several criteria when putting the various options together, including a desire to adhere to natural boundaries, keep neighborhoods together, keep travel time to a minimum and balance enrollment.

The firm also focused on the desire to “mitigate impact on students already redistricted and remain cognizant of and sensitive to those families,” Augur said.

The options presented Wednesday night outline a plan for taking four sister-school districts and turning them into eight individual elementary school districts.

School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser talked about the complexity of the process.

“The buildings are not equal in size,” Feser said. “Six years ago, redistricting was difficult, but it involved pairing two schools. This is eight individual attendance areas.

“There is more complexity with this process,” she said.

Milone & MacBroom initially started with a plan of setting aside nine program rooms in each elementary school for such things as art, music, science, physical therapy and other specialties, but dropped that to seven because some of the schools didn’t have the classroom space to make that possible. Augur said the plans incorporate a desire to phase in the additional special program space over time.

The plans also aim to keep class sizes at not more than 20 students for grades K-2 and the rest at not more than 24 students.

The Board of Education listened to the presentation and asked questions. Jennifer Federico wanted to know if population changes that left some schools more crowded than others in the past might reverse in the future.

The Milone and MacBroom representatives explained that there really isn’t any way to predict these changes over time.

Earl Whiskeyman wanted to know if a proposal for a large apartment building on Bic Drive would impact the redistricting plan. The Milone and MacBroom representatives said they will talk to the city’s planning department to see if there are projections on the number of school age children who might move into those apartments if they are built.

While it wasn’t clear from the company’s presentation which neighborhoods would see the most change in terms of their school designation, about 50 to 75 parents who attended the meeting got a chance to look at maps posted on the walls outside the auditorium to see which schools their children would attend under the various options.

Company representatives suggested they preferred Option 4C, because it incorporated a number of adjustments made to earlier options.

Parents looking at Option 4C generally didn’t seem happy with the new district lines. One parent said she wasn’t expecting to see so many changes.

A group of parents gathered near one of the maps said they have been happy with the K-2, 3-5 configuration currently in place at the elementary schools and said it offers a number of positive factors. Also, Denise Posey, Amber Zeoli and Kim Hoydilla said their children are friends and are in the same school this year. Next year they will be in different schools under the redistricting plan.

The three women said they aren’t happy about the planned changes and redistricting, but for the sake of their children they said they will put on a happy face and make it work.

There will be a follow-up meeting on redistricting, where the public can make comments, Tuesday, Feb. 17, in the Jonathan Law auditorium starting at 7 p.m.

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