The (BOE) voted Monday night on elementary school redistricting to tackle overcrowding at South School.
Of the six options organized in a Demographic Study by Dr. John Bryan Starr from Yale University, the board unanimously voted on “Option 2,” an option that would move South School students residing in the Avalon Apartment Complex and on New Norwalk Road to East School.
The motion passed by the board was four parts and also stated that children of non-resident faculty will move from to either or at the discretion of the administration in accordance with BOE policy 5120 (sections must be kept within comparable size); children of non-resident faculty at East and West school may be moved between East and West school at the discretion of administration in accordance with policy 5120; and all rising 4th grade students have the option of being grandfathered at their current school.
This course of action will result in student enrollment at South School decreasing from 572 students to 546 students and student enrollment at East School increasing from 539 to 564 for the 2012-2013 school year.
One South School mother who resides in the /New Norwalk Road area immediately left the meeting in tears while other parents beamed.
“I’m very happy,” said Ava Kaufman of Lower Weed Street. “My children, they go to South School, and I think it makes a lot of sense.”
A high and low estimate of enrollment trends for South, East and West Schools compiled by Dr. Starr under Option 2 projects that, over the course of the next five years, East School enrollment will decrease from 564 students to 497 students (high estimate: 588 to 532), South School enrollment will decrease from 546 students to 455 students (high estimate: 583 to 572), and West School enrollment will decrease from 511 students to 389 students (high estimate: 548 to 515).
Starr explained his methods, stating that he calculated enrollment projections “on a school-by-school basis using historical materialization rates (comparing births in the town to Kindergarten enrollees five or six years later) and retention rates (comparing students in one grade level to students in the next grade level the following year).”
Starr also studied the New Canaan real estate market in order to address the unpredictable in-migration and out-migration factor. He reported that he found four trends: the market is beginning to experience a slow recovery since a slump in 2008-2009; there is an increased preference for living close to the center of town, which is primarily within the South School attendance zone; an increasing number of houses in the South School attendance zone are being torn down and replaced with larger and more expensive homes; and the number of of properties on the housing market is decreasing due to a tendency among New Canaan’s older residents to stay where they are.
While board members agreed that Option 2 would be the best course of action to take for the upcoming school year, they also acknowledged that the plan is not perfect.
“Having been through redistricting before, I know it's unpleasant and extremely time consuming. But, having gone through the numbers, there's no great answer to the situation we're in right now,” said board member Alison Bedula. “If there was, we would have solved it a while ago. There isn't a lot of play in these numbers. My concern is not to shift the problem from one school to another, but it's hard not to when looking at these numbers.
“We have the best data available and we're going to make the best decision we can with it. I'm willing to take that chance that there will be a shift next year, but, in case these numbers don’t go down, we'll start developing a plan now,” said Bedula.
For a full list of the options presented to the board and Starr’s latest, revised Demographic Study, visit the New Canaan Board of Education website to download the PDF.