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Head O' Meadow Parents Oppose Closing Their Children's School

The Board of Education moves toward commissioning a study of the issue, which could put off a school closing decision for three years.

 

Dozens of Head O’ Meadow School parents, concerned that the Newtown Board of Education might vote to close their neighborhood school, turned out at the board’s meeting Tuesday, Oct. 2,  to oppose it.

The board actually was only considering having a new study conducted to review its future school facilities needs, although with pupil enrollment projected to continue to decline in coming years, another school closing might be inevitable.

And Head O’ Meadow School, being the smallest of the town’s four elementary schools, might yet become the preferred school closing target.

However, from the discussion at the meeting Tuesday, that decision is likely to be as much as three years away.

The parents’ concerns were raised in August by an off-hand remark by a school board member that suggested Head O’ Meadow might be on the chopping block much sooner.

Instead, Chairman Debbie Leidlein asked School Supt. Dr. Janet Robinson to look into hiring a consultant to conduct a facilities needs study that would include updating the district’s enrollment projections.

Leidlein said last spring’s budget battle hinged on critics who asked why the school budget kept going up even though school enrollment went down.

"I feel very strongly, in light of everything that’s been going on, that we really owe it to the community to look at this," she said.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Head O’ Meadow School parents strongly opposed closing the school.

"A lot of us moved to a specific home so our children could go to Head O’ Meadow," said Joanna Rosen of Sugar Lane. The school is air conditioned, which she said was good for her son’s allergies.

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Parents who spoke at the meeting questioned whether closing the school would save any money, or if it did that the school district would benefit from the savings.

They also said it would cause higher class sizes at the other three schools.

According to Robinson, the district has 1,657 students in grades K-4 and 64 classrooms in the other three elementary schools. If divided evenly, that would mean an average class size of 25.9 per class, she said.

Robinson told the board based on advice from administrators in other districts and from officials at the New England School Development Council, she recommended putting out a request for proposals (RFP) for a consultant to do a study.

Newtown school officials are preoccupied with the 2013-14 school budget, however, and the earliest they can provide the board with a draft RFP to consider would be next month.

Robinson said the cost for consultants hired by other districts averaged about $18,000, but she hoped to pay less than that.

It might not be until sometime in early 2013 that the school board finally hires a consultant, and the money for it won’t be available until the next school budget year starts in July.

Officials said the study could take nearly two years to complete, so Leidlein said she expected the soonest the board might close a school would be about three years from now.

ACE October 10, 2012 at 03:58 AM
con't-- We could have moved the old Middle School to the old High school. Thus having plenty of room to have grades 7-9 if we had a "bubble" and when the "bubble" passed back to grades 7-8. In that we would have had a state of the art Middle school with fantastic extra curricular facilities! Then we could have re-purposed the middle school for Town Offices (right in the center of town!). This could have also supported a new police, ambulance, youth and senior center. You would have had a kitchen for the seniors and youth center and a gym for the youth center! This would have saved us millions in building a new police/ambulance facilities. If the police still wanted to be separate we could have build a new facility in the back fields and put the new fire station in the old Middle School as well. Now with one decision we solved many numerous problems. But we can not go back on our past decisions. But we can look ahead. The only way to bring taxes down is to get people to want to move to town. We don't have anything to attract these future purchasers. Wait, yes we do! We have fantastic teachers that get fantastic results with the least amount of support. This is something we need to broadcast. Our kids, with the help of our teachers, have scored in the top 5 in our DRG across the board k-12! How do we get taxes down to make homes attractive again? One, support our teachers. Start working with them instead of knocking them in the paper. Two let's be open to larger businesses.
ACE October 10, 2012 at 04:06 AM
con't... The Blue Linx property is just sitting there ripe for a box type store. Oh, I know bad words but we need to start thinking outside the box. This property is away from most residential properties and right on state road 25. A movie theater and upscale chain restaurant would be perfect! Another strip mall is not going to do it. Closing a school is not an answer either. Closing Hawley will result in the town loosing access to the Hawley fund. Let's start the conversation. Let's come up with some creative solutions instead of bashing each other and the public sector workers that keep this town running. These people bust their butts every day, just like those in the private sector if not more. Let's keep the businesses on the outskirts like Trumbull did in order to maintain our small town feel. What about a great public golf course? There really isn't much of that around. Let's get talking now. Let the town officials know we want to invest in our education and the future or our town. If we are going to survive we need to take the jump now and not sit back and wait for everything to improve. Sometimes you need to take risks to be rewarded and calculated risks are those worth taking.
Ben October 10, 2012 at 05:27 AM
What about turning all the turning the elementary schools to k-8. The idea would be to add fifth grade at the start of next school year, sixth grade in 2014-15, seventh grade in 2015-16 and eighth grade in 2017-18. Just an ideal it would cut down on transportation allow for a more community feeling and a sense of security and less transition for students which at times can be very stressful. Also it would allow more movement for students to take advance classes in a subject area. Just an ideal??
Dawne Kornhaas October 10, 2012 at 09:40 AM
ACE, those are great ideas! I agree too that we should have built a new high school at FFH campus and move the middle school to the high school and make the middle school an administrative/senior center etc. But like you said it's to late for that now so lets move forward and THINK LONG term for a change. We could use a Trader Joe's or a Staples type of store and the Blue Lynx site you mentioned is perfect for that.
Yay Write October 10, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Ben... Really K-8...That is nuts.

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