Scotland school parents say best option is 'to do nothing'

Disruption to students, little savings, and difficulty in reprogramming — those are all reasons closing Scotland Elementary School and moving fifth graders to the middle schools is increasingly becoming an unlikely scenario to address dwindling enrollment.

Twelve parents spoke against both closing a school and “pocket redistricting” — the option that would shift students from Barlow Mountain to Ridgebury and students from Scotland to Barlow Mountain, while keeping all six elementary schools open — during the Board of Education meeting Jan. 26.

All 12 speakers said the district’s enrollment does not pose a real problem.

“Ridgefield Public Schools are in a good place,” said parent Sandra Mahoney.

“We aren’t bursting at the seams, and we don’t have classrooms with just a few students,” she said. “The best option of all is option four: to do nothing at all.”

After three months of discussion, the board seemed ready to adopt that option.

Chairwoman Fran Walton said space concerns at the middle schools created the possibility of a fifth-through-eighth-grade configuration, but that savings under that model were less than originally estimated.

“As we go through this model, we have assumptions of what staff we still need to retain,” said Director of Personnel Karen Dewing.

“We still have the same number of students,” she said. “Our support systems already in place would be needed even if they’re in a different location.”

Despite the consensus from the crowd, the board agreed it would not remove the two scenarios — school closing and pocket redistricting — from consideration.

A third option — to create 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 — wasn’t discussed by the crowd, with the board opting to argue about the reality and practicality of closing a school.

“We have to keep going through this scenario, we have to keep pushing through, because we need to look at it in relation to budget and transportation –– the big picture,” said board member David Cordisco.

Walton said she was in favor of delaying any decision.

“I would like to table it,” she said. “I can’t see that it’s going to happen this way.”