Enrollment decline: Schools to look at five options Monday

Pull fifth grade out of the elementary schools, convert the middle schools to fit a fifth-through-eighth-grade configuration, and close an elementary school — that’s one of five options on the table for the Board of Education when it meets Monday night to examine solutions for the district’s ongoing enrollment decline.

But will the board go through with closing one of the six elementary schools — a decision that has been postponed for several years and could net the town an estimated $1 million in savings — or will it opt for one of the two redistricting options that will shuffle dozens of students into different schools?

Those scenarios include:

  • Aligning the two middle schools to fit the district’s current elementary school boundaries and creating an even “three and three” split, with Scotland, Barlow Mountain, and Ridgebury students going to Scotts Ridge, and Branchville, Farmingville, and Veterans Park students going to East Ridge.
  • Aligning the middle schools, creating an even split, and balancing elementary enrollment through “pocket redistricting” that would shift 25 Barlow Mountain students to Ridgebury and 48 Scotland students to Barlow Mountain.

There are two other options to consider: moving the sixth grade into the elementary schools and repurposing Scotts Ridge Middle School as a regional private school that could potentially generate revenue for the district, or redistricting the six elementary schools evenly and converting Scotts Ridge to serve only Ridgefield sixth graders.

Under both scenarios, East Ridge Middle School would house all seventh and eighth graders. If Scotts Ridge were to become a private school and the elementary schools were to fit a K-6 configuration, as in the first option, then East Ridge would be the town’s lone middle school.

Redistricting, in the second option presented by Superintendent Karen Baldwin at the board’s Dec. 12 meeting, could affect more than the previously proposed 73 students at Barlow Mountain Elementary School and Ridgebury Elementary School.

“We’ve been dancing around these issues for a long time,” said board member David Cordisco. “That luxury doesn’t exist anymore. We’re facing too much community pressure and budgetary pressure.”