Letter: School board member says she supports closing Harborside

To the Editor:

As a Milford Board of Education member, I'm writing to state my personal position on school configuration and consolidation.

I support a plan with an elementary school configuration of Pre-K -5 and all eight elementary schools remaining open. The Pre-K - 5 configuration, which we've already passed, allows continuity for families and provides older peers for younger students. Keeping all elementary schools open allows opportunities for growth and expansion of programs, as the budget permits, and helps ensure there is enough space for existing programs.

Potential opportunities include expansion of the Pre-K program and a dedicated science room. It's important to ensure we have space for computer labs, art, music, band, strings and other resource programs in all elementary schools. Most of these programs already exist and are funded.

A second computer lab was funded in the 2014-15 budget. Some schools don't have enough space so the band and strings programs are taught in a closet instead of a classroom. I want to make sure all our students in all of our schools have enough space to take advantage of these programs. Adding new programs to the budget can be done in the future when feasible, but without saving these rooms now, we would not be able to move forward with future enhancements.

I also support consolidation to two middle schools which requires the closing of Harborside. I understand closing a school will always be difficult and transitions are challenging for families. However, with an expected decline in enrollment of over 500 middle school students from 2008 to 2019, I believe we have a great opportunity to invest our city's resources in two middle schools rather than three.

I believe this is the best plan for all of our middle school students, since they would benefit from the dedicated art and music rooms and other functional enhancements that have already been built at East Shore and are planned for West Shore. The cost of any future enhancements to the facilities would only have to be multiplied times two buildings rather than three.

I respectfully disagree with Mr. DeRosa's characterization that parents were blindsided by this plan. A two middle school plan was included in the Long Range Planning Committee's long term recommendation. All the board members present at the long-range planning workshop on September 15 agreed on this plan. After hearing public input, the board met again on September 30 and all members present again agreed with this plan. Then political pressure increased and some board members changed their position.

I have listened to concerns and understand the political arguments against closing a school. Based on what I learned in our workshops over the summer, I have weighed the strengths and weaknesses of various school configurations and options for consolidation. Based on all the data and analysis, I believe the plan I support is the one that best positions the Milford school district to provide enhanced learning opportunities for all students and drives excellence in Milford education for the long term.

Jennifer Federico