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Redistricting Eyed for Overcrowded South

Transferring students may help rectify elementary enrollment imbalance, officials say.

 

School officials say redistricting is one of the options they're weighing to address enrollment imbalance in New Canaan's three elementary schools, including redistricting.

The Board of Education is scheduled to meet tonight to discuss a demographic study—attached as a PDF—that suggests the transfer of some students as one potential solution for next academic year. 

While the BOE ultimately will decide what to do, Superintendent of Schools David Abbey says parents have been very engaged in the issue thus far. 

They've been emailing and the district has shared information with parents on its website, Abbey said. The author of the study, Dr. John B. Starr from Yale University, has been closely involved, Abbey said.

"Dr. Starr met with parents several weeks ago at a public town forum at South School where he participated in a PTC [Parent Teacher Council] meeting," Abbey said. "He [Starr] was also at the last Board of Education meeting where any parents that wanted to discuss his earlier report could do so. There’s been a lot of parent input and public dialogue."

The study presents an imbalance in the enrollment at the three elementary schools: is listed at 588 students out of 600 potential spots, followed by with 521 students and with 512. The study offers five different courses of action to rectify the overcrowding at South. 

One option would see South School students from the Avalon Apartment Complex and New Norwalk Road transferred to East School and students from lower Weed Street transferred to West School. That would put enrollment at an estimated 517 at South, 561 at East and 538 at West. 

A second option would move South School students from the Avalon Apartment Complex and New Norwalk Road to East School, which would put South at an estimated 548 students and East at 558. 

Another option would move students residing on Ash Tree Lane, Bickford Lane, Indian Waters Drive, Knapp Lane and Weed Street north to West School. That would put enrollment at an estimated 550 for South and 536 for West. 

A fourth option moves students from Gerrish Lane, Hampton Lane, Holmewood Lane, Oenoke Ridge (north to Parade Hill), and Parade Hill Lane from South to West. That would put enrollment at an estimated 565 for South and 521 for West.

A fifth and final option is to do nothing and rely on statistics that project the school-age population to decrease by 8 percent, sorting out overpopulation naturally over time—a move Starr recognizes as "imprudent."

Regardless of the BOE's decision, parents of third-graders at South School will have the opportunity to keep their children at South for fourth grade to avoid a school change for both fourth and fifth grades. 

As for the BOE's deliberation, Abbey says Starr has provided the board with the information they need and it is now in their hands to analyze it. 

"They'll decide if any of this makes sense or all of this makes sense," Abbey said, "it’s just a matter of using the information provided to aid them in the discussion. The plan is to make a decision by May 7."

South's Parent Teacher Council Co-Chair Lindsey Heron said the PTC is "confident that a fair and appropriate decision will conclude from the Board of Education as it weighs the opinions of parents, considers Dr. Starr’s research and demographer reports and secures all relevant administration information."

“We continue to emphasize and encourage South School parents to attend the BOE meetings or contact individual members of the BOE through email or letter so their voice can be heard,” Heron continued.

It's not clear how the Board of Education and Parent Teacher Councils for East and West Schools have recieved the potential transferring of students. The only members who could be reached for an interview declined to comment. 

Tonight's meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Wagner Room at .

For more information, please find attached the full 2012 Demographic Study.

Ade April 23, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Keep in mind that the West School numbers include 2 sections of PreK/Opportunity Center. In order to compare apples to apples on the K-4 class size/population you have to take into consideration that section of West's population. Although the Opportunity Center does take up classroom space, the K-4 population is significantly lower than either South or East once you remove Pre-K from the overall numbers. I think more movement from South to West needs to be done, and not necessarily just reversing the last redistricting. It should be north of town's turn this time around. Lower Weed should not be the defacto swing neighborhood.... and, no, Teri Buhl, this does not mean the kind of swing neighborhood you are reporting on.
J Bauer April 23, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Whatever the outcome, I hope that the Board of Ed makes these changes gradually, allowing 1st graders to start in their new schools, rather than grabbing 3rd and 4th graders mid-stream and dropping them into a new school away from familiar friends and teachers.
Four Jacks April 23, 2012 at 06:19 PM
They knew all of this long-term student imbalance years ago when they did the last redistricting, it was said then: The overcrowding will be at south in a few years and the west issue will resolve itself. Instead, they tore up the whole west and south socially and people were very upset, people were mis-quoted in the advertiser, it was awful. We are on the east side so were not effected, but it was ugly. Let's hope they do a better job this time, some of us have long memories!
New Canaanite April 23, 2012 at 07:15 PM
All together now...1...2...3... THEY NEVER SHOULD HAVE TORN DOWN CENTER SCHOOL!!! SHINE ON CENTER SCHOOL!!!
Boyd April 24, 2012 at 02:01 AM
So - how did the meeting go?

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