The pros and cons to school consolidation are many, and sifting through loads of information to understand the proposed consolidation of Windsor's elementary schools can be tricky. With the first of three educational forums on the consolidation, it's important to be prepared, and know how the plan may affect you.
Here are the most important things to know heading into tomorrow's educational forum:
Why is there talk about elementary school consolidation?
The consolidation of Windsor's schools has everything to do with the optimal use of resources in town. The planning study of elementary schools, commissioned by the board of education, found that Windsor's elementary schools currently have a 72-percent utilization rate, meaning over one-quarter of the district's elementary facilities do not meet their potential for use. In many cases, class sizes are smaller than what the board of education sees as the maximum capacity, 22 students. The reason for the 72-percent utilization rate is declining enrollment. Enrollment in Windsor has steadily declined for over a decade, and are expected to continue to fall over the next few years.
Why do I keep hearing people talk about "Option G"?
Option G is what the board of education and Elementary Task Force (comprised of teachers, parents, community members, administrators and board of education members) believe to be the best course of action for elementary school consolidation. In 2009, the board of education commissioned a study conducted by the architectural firm Drummy Rosane Anderson, Inc. (DRA) to determine possible options for the optimization of elementary facility use given the decline of enrollment. The study presented a number of options, which included option G, to the task force in 2010.
Once narrowed down, the options presented included a plan (Option A) to use the existing five buildings with one serving as a school for pre-k and kindergarten students and four schools serving students in grades 1-5, with no full-day kindergarten. Option C presented the creation of one pre-k through five school, with full-day kindergarten, and three schools serving grades 1-5. Option F presented the creation of one pre-K through five school, with full-day kindergarten, and three K through five schools. Option G includes the creation of one PK-2 school, one K-2 school, which would include full-day kindergarten, and two schools serving students in grades 3-5.
With the consolidation of the schools, the DRA study found that the utilization rate of the elementary schools would be raised to 92-percent.
Which schools would serve which students?
Option G proposes that Poquonock would become a school for K-2 students, Oliver Ellsworth, which is the largest elementary school in the district, would serve pre-K through second-grade students, and both Clover Street and John F. Kennedy would serve students in grades 3-5. Roger Wolcott would no longer serve as a school in the district.
Why is there such an emphasis on offering full-day kindergarten classes?
Full-day kindergarten classes are believed to be an integral part of closing the achievement gap and improving academic achievement throughout the district. Academic improvement is closely tied to performance standards defined in federal No Child Left Behind legislation (2001).
In accordance with No Child Left Behind, Windsor has set the goal of getting all students to read on grade level or high by the third grade. Administrators believe that students who are behind after the third grade, have a difficult time catching up and becoming proficient in the years that follow. Full-day kindergarten classes are seen as one of the most important components of the effort to improving the academic performance of young students in the district.
Will class sizes increase?
Not by much. Under the proposed consolidation, class sizes would still fail to meet the maximum number of students wanted in the classroom. While some classes currently have 22 students, there are classes with 15 students in them. Classes in grades 1-5 would even out, and the maximum number of students per class would not exceed 22. Kindergarten classes, which currently average 15 students, would increase — possibly doubling in size.
Will school consolidation change where my child currently goes to school?
Possibly. With the adjustment of which schools serve which students, attendance lines will be re-drawn.
In the process of redistricting, the study took into account two major factors: having the same cohort of students continue on to the same 3-5 school, and the student population of each school. Oliver Ellsworth students would go to Kennedy after the second grade, and Poquonock students would go to Clover Street.
The study went a step further by finding a redistricting plan that would create school populations with equal percentages of ethic distribution, and numbers of students eligible for free and reduced lunches.
For example, a student in the third grade who lives on Windbrook Drive (off of Matianuck Avenue) and currently goes to Poquonock, would go to John F. Kennedy.
How much will school consolidation cost?
According to Superintendent Feser, the plan would not cost the district anything. In fact, the district would save an estimated $325,000 - $425,000 annually, she said.
There are costs that will be associated with the consolidation: more kindergarten teachers will be needed to teach full-day classes; there would also be a one-time cost for moving and classroom materials, and new furniture to accomodate the increase in students in kindergarten classes.
Savings would come from no longer using Roger Wolcott (potential savings of $50,000), and staff cuts. There are staff positions at Roger Wolcott, other than classroom teachers, that would no longer be needed. Total projected savings associated with staff cuts are $325,000 - $375,000.
Some building modifications would be needed; however, no major renovations are required.
What will happen to Roger Wolcott?
There are no plans in place for Roger Wolcott, which currently serves students in pre-K and kindergarten. The district has a few options: taking the school completely off-line, moving the board of education from L.P. Wilson into the Roger Wolcott building, or returning the building to the town.
With taking the building off-line, the district would still pay utility and maintainance costs; however, if the building is returned to the town, no costs would be associated with its use.
The first educational forum will be held on Tues., March 1 at Sage Park Middle School from 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. Questions and comments will be heard from those in attendance.