School open this week with an emphasis on social and emotional learning, buildings renovated by some 90 facilities projects, and total enrollment likely to come in over 4,700 but with closer to 4,600 in Ridgefield classrooms.

“I’m looking forward to a very smooth opening and I’m really excited about welcoming our new students and returning students,” said Interim Superintendent JeanAnn Paddyfote.

“Right now, it looks like our enrollment is 4,717 — around 4,720.”

Board of Education Chairwoman Margaret Stamatis also expressed optimism.

“We’re looking forward to the start of a new year,” Stamatis said. “District staff has been hard at work over the summer — curriculum revision and writing continued throughout the summer, along with planning for professional development days.”

The enrollment numbers change depending on how various categories of special education students — some who may be in the special education preschool, be outside the typical age-range, or go to out-of-district schools — are counted.

“Total school enrollment we expect — we had projected 4,745 and right now its 4,717, and that includes pre-kindergarten, 18-to-21, and off-site — special needs students attending out-of-district placements,” Dr. Paddyfote said.

“In our seats right now, we have, 4,610. Then we have preschool and off-site,” she said.

“It’s a little bit down. Overall, when you include all of our students, it’s down by 28 when you include pre-K and special needs.”

“We’re looking forward to an exciting and smooth reopening,” Dr. Paddyfote said.

Thursday, Friday start

A lot of work has gone into preparing for the new 2019-20 school year, which starts next Thursday Aug. 29, for Ridgefield public school students in kindergarten through ninth grade, and Friday, Aug. 30, for 10th, 11th and 12th graders at the high school.

“Students at the high school had more choice in their selection of courses due to the new graduation requirements as well as new high school course offerings,” Stamatis said.

A committee from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) will be visiting to examine the high school, review its offerings, and reaffirm the school’s accreditation.

“We’re eager to welcome the NEASC accreditation committee at the high school this fall, and hear the recommendations from the multi-year school self-study and committee evaluation,” Stamatis said.

“We’re confident that the STEM supervisor will be hired shortly to continue strengthening the alignment and professional learning for math and science,” she said.

Health and wellness

“This year there will be increased supports and services for our students’ mental health and wellness funded in the operating budget as a response to current student needs,” Stamatis added. “For instance, each elementary school will participate in phase one of Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence RULER program.”

Already in practice at Ridgefield’s middle schools, the RULER program developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence is an evidence-based approach for integrating social and emotional learning into schools. It teaches emotional intelligence skills associated with “recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotion” with the goal of making schools “safe harbors” for children.

“All in all it’s been a very productive summer — a lot of training,” Dr. Paddyfote agreed. “We’re excited about the new curriculum and revisions. We’re excited about our new teachers’ orientation and our facilities, the nice upgrade and refurbishment of our facilities.”

Facilities work

Facilities work ranges from renovated student bathrooms at the high school to new drinking fountains in all schools to a new playground and parking lot renovations at Branchville School.

“We’re really excited because we had 90 projects of varying scope take place over the summer — that’s really amazing,” Dr. Paddyfote said.

“We’re really thrilled and excited about all our capital projects. Every school had some major renovation — not only routine maintenance but other things,” she said.

“Some of the work is more obvious,” Stamatis said, “physical repair and improvements to the school buildings and the surrounding areas thanks to the capital items approved by voters in the referendum last May (such as replacement of the RHS gym floor and carpeting in the RHS library commons).”

“In just about every school, the fountains were replaced with bottle-filled water fountains,” Dr. Paddyfote said. “We started upgrading lighting in the halls ways — LED lighting. Then at East Ridge MIddle School we closed off the 12,000 gallon oil tank...

“The high school got a new gym floor, a new cooling tower, including major work on the chiller. And complete renovations to student bathrooms. In the library, new carpet in the Toni Morrison room and the Mark Twain room.”

Outside the high school building there was work on the sidewalks and front entrance.

“An update on the work will be provided at the August 26 Board of Education meeting,” Chairwoman Stamatis said.

That meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, in the school board meeting room of the town hall annex off Prospect Street, near Yanity gym.


School security remains a high priority.

“We’re basically maintaining everything we have, and the administration did receive some additional training this summer — one full day of our retreat,” Dr. Paddyfote said. “We had two presenters that we heard from and just learned more awareness of technologies and observational strategies.

“We’re really grateful to have the SROs,” she said, referring to school resource officers at the high school and the two middle schools, with each of the middle school officers also covering three of the six elementary schools.

There are also security guards at the entry doors to the schools. Visitors must be buzzed in, sign up with identification, and are given an ID badge to wear while in the school building.

“We have a contract with Securitas for our security guards, or monitors, and we’re continuing that at the present time,” Dr. Paddyfote said. “Every school is covered with one or more of those individuals.”

New teachers

The school system expects to employ about 462 teachers — and more than 20 will be new to Ridgefield this fall.

“We’re excited that we’re welcoming at least 19 new teachers. We have approximately five vacancies and we have some — three — long-term subs,” Dr. Paddyfote said. “There may be a few more...

“Sometimes you get a late resignation — most of these are August resignations,” she said of the remaining teaching vacancies.

“I think we’re in a good position to open and we hope we’ll fill those remaining five positions that are currently vacant.”


School system administrators had a “retreat” — although they didn’t go anywhere, it was right in town — for two and a half days from Monday, Aug. 12, through Wednesday, Aug. 14.

“We’re excited the administrative team had two and a half days of retreat — it was in-district — and we had a nationally acclaimed speaker talk to us about standards-based grading and reporting,” Dr. Paddyfote said. “And we also spend time talking about our social and emotional learning, using RULERS by Dr. Marc Brackett from Yale, and also some of the nuts and bolts things we’re doing in-district and continuing to focus on math and language arts. That was very exciting and inspiring.”

School board Chairwoman Stamatis invited the public to attend Monday night’s board meeting, which will discuss the board’s goals for the coming year and the recently completed year.

“The board will be reviewing its goals at the August 26 meeting,” Stamatis said. “We expect that they will remain similar to the goals adopted in December 2018 to support district priorities, practice good stewardship of district resources, develop policies in support of our mission, improve communication and improve accountability.”