Redistricting? Not so fast says school board

Despite falling enrollments, Ridgefield elementary school students won’t be redistricted next fall.

That was the conclusion reached at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting where redistricting was discussed for the third year in a row. The Board of Finance, looking at three additional teachers who were hired post-budget for the 2018-19 school year, suggested the school board move students around the town’s six elementary schools — an idea educators rejected.

“I don’t see an educational need it,” said board Chairwoman Fran Walton.

Board member Jonathan Steckler said that the finance board likely saw a drop in overall enrollments — which fell by 42 students from last year — along with an increase in headcount, and suggested the idea as a way to cut costs.

“I assume the Board of Finance is looking at a cost-containment process,” Walton added.

She said the only outlier was at Barlow Mountain Elementary School, where 39 more students enrolled than the schools projected. Farmingville Elementary, meanwhile, saw 22 fewer students enroll than projected.

“It could just be that houses sold in Barlow Mountain instead of Farmingville,” Walton said.

Of the extra students who enrolled at Barlow Mountain, 17 of them were in the kindergarten, Vice Chairman Doug Silver said.

“We can’t redistrict for kindergarten, we don’t even know these children, they’re not in our system,” he said.

Shave costs

Walton suggested that the only real way to shave costs would be to concentrate the elementary schools into split levels, with some schools serving kindergarten through second, and others third grade through fifth grade.

But at the moment, she argued, the school administration has too much work on its plate to consider such a move.

Board member Katherine Holz said the district could “go through all that effort to save one teacher” — a saving that might be lost if the district needs another bus, added board member Sharon D’Orso.

“I don’t think there’s any point to do any redistricting,” said Walton.

Two years ago, she explained, the board had considered “pocket redistricting” as a cost saving measure.

“If you thought it was bad with Scotland parents over the principal, you weren’t on the board two years ago with the pocket redistricting,” she said.