School closing, redistricting pushes education meeting to Scotts Ridge auditorium
High interest surrounding the school district's decision to either close one of the town's six elementary school or redistrict dozens of students has forced the Board of Education to meet at Scotts Ridge Middle School Monday night.
According to an agenda that was sent out Friday, the board will meet in executive session from 6:30 to 7:30 to hear Superintendent Karen Baldwin's mid-year evaluations. The board will then reconvene in public session where it will discuss the following items:
- Capacity study plan (five options to deal with the district's declining enrollment)
- Transportation and school start times (how to tailor the bus schedule to start every Ridgefield school later than 8 a.m.)
- 2017-2018 budget development and status report (a 2.5% state-imposed spending cap has educators worried)
- Curriculum design plan
- Revision to the board's policy of accepting gifts
Also on the docket is the acceptance of a gift for Ridgefield High School and a finance report ending on Nov. 30.
However, the fireworks are expected early in the meeting.
The public will get a chance to comment on the school closing and redistricting scenarios that the board has been facing throughout the fall at the beginning of the meeting.
"Based on the feedback and interest I received at my meeting with the joint council of PTA's today, the PTA Council and I agreed it would be best to provide an accommodating setting for the interested parents who want to be present for the meeting," Dr. Baldwin said Friday.
The main question facing the board: could a school closure result in budget savings?
The finance board has estimated the savings at $1 million. The schools believe its a little more complicated.
"Closure/restructure must meet needs for students graduating 2026 & beyond," the district tweeted Sunday night.
"Decision on school closures & redistricting has not been made," said another Tweet Monday. "We invite any interested persons to attend this important meeting on 1/9."
Dr. Baldwin said Friday that the board's discussion and decision has been something they've known about for the last year.
“At the conclusion of last spring’s budget season there was a strong belief in the community that because of the declining enrollment in Ridgefield there was a possibility and reality that a school could be closed and effectuate savings and thereby reduce the burden to taxpayers," she said. "This was based on prior discussions between the Board of Education and the Board of Finance that stated that if K-5 enrollment goes below 2000, then a school should be closed. When our budget passed by only 16 votes, it became very clear to me and the Board that we needed to revisit this and vet it in a deep thoughtful way. Not only would a school closing or restructuring need to create financial and operational efficiencies, but it should also meet the needs of student learning for our students graduating in 2026 and beyond.”