Letter: New school advocacy group wants more time put into school-changing decisions

To the Editor:

On Nov. 10, the Milford Board of Education will consider a motion to approve the expansion of West Shore Middle School to allow for the closing of Harborside Middle School in four to five years.

Residents have overwhelmingly expressed concerns about this action in many arenas — in community conversations, on social networks, through public comments at recent Board of Education meetings, and in the press. We, and many others, believe more time is needed to accurately assess the short- and long-term costs and benefits of closing a middle school, and to consider the impact this plan would have on our students, families, educators, school buildings, neighborhoods, property values and taxpayers.

Given that projected enrollment figures do not allow for the closing of Harborside for another four to five years (even with the addition of classrooms at West Shore Middle School), it would be wise to table the vote on the addition of classrooms until 2016. A long-range plan should be just that: A plan that addresses the future possible changes in our school system. Deciding to postpone some decisions is still planning for the future and it is taking into consideration the dynamic nature of schools and population.

The current plan to close Harborside cannot be revoked if additional classrooms are built at West Shore Middle School. This may be the correct path to follow, and may be the outcome of our middle schools, but it would be wise to take our time to review this path, and implement the changes as needed.

On Nov. 10, the board may also consider a motion to close one elementary school. We believe all eight elementary schools should remain open for the foreseeable future in order to allow for increased programming at the elementary level and for lowering class size – a move that can only be a positive change toward increasing test scores and providing a better education.

Concerned about these upcoming votes, just a week ago, with the help of many others, we launched an organization, MilfordEd Advocates, a non-partisan, diverse group of citizens with a deep interest in the quality of public school education in our town. We are creating a network of communication and advocacy, and focusing on building relationships — with parents, teachers, administrators, political leaders and our Board of Education— to help increase awareness and understanding of these issues as well as ensure our community has a voice in these decisions. Because after all, the one thing on which we surely can all agree is the need to work together, as a community, to build consensus in this important time of change.

Kara Flannery, Ron Berlen, Karen Karpie

Community Organizers

MilfordEd Advocates