Thursday, May 30, 2024

SLAM BOE Study Narrowed Down

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Two Options Selected
Additional Public Forums in May

By the Stratford Board of Education

The BOE Plant/Planning sub-committee voted last week to advance two redistricting options from among a group of several different scenarios presented by SLAM on April 12th.

The BOE is aiming to adopt an overhauled redistricting plan for the district’s 13 schools by the fall of 2025, and intends to hold a series of public forums next month to learn the public’s thoughts about the proposals, according to Chair Michael Henrick. 

According to Henrick, the board plans to hold at least two community forums to discuss the redistricting proposals sometime in May, and a third forum may be scheduled for June. The dates of the forums have not yet been announced. 

“I think it’s important to get everybody involved, to get everybody’s input and to make sure everyone understands,” Henrick said. 

Both plans now under consideration would require about 600 students to attend new schools to even out enrollment and make better use of buildings, but the two scenarios accomplish that goal in noticeably different ways. 

The first proposal would enlarge the size of the attendance zone for Chapel Street and Wilcoxson schools, while reducing the zone for Stratford Academy: Johnson House. The scheme would also create a flex zone between Johnson House and Lordship School, allowing administrators to assign students to those schools based on enrollment levels.

The second option calls for the creation of a pair of satellite attendance zones for Chapel Street near the center of town, as well as minor changes to some attendance zones. The plan would move away from the school system’s neighborhood model, but would reduce the number of buses and administrative placements.

The proposals would both include several adjustments to the attendance zones for the middle and high schools.

In addition to the two plans advanced by the board, the firm also proposed other redistricting options, including transforming Lordship into a dual language magnet school and converting Chapel Street into a sixth grade academy.    

According to SLAM, Chapel Street is optimally sized to house the town’s about 500 sixth grade students. SLAM stressed that creating a single school for the entire cohort would likely lead to increased transportation costs and could affect bell times. 

Henrick said he believed the plans selected by the board were superior to the other options on the table, since they would affect the fewest number of students and cost the least to implement. He said he preferred the first plan since it preserves the district’s traditional neighborhood elementary school model.  

“It brings a lot of the kids to their neighborhood schools and it creates some opportunities for growth within each of those school districts,” Henrick said. “I think this is a plan that would be valuable at least for a number of years.”  

Pat Gallagher, a planning manager for SLAM, has said both options would ensure the school system would comply with the state’s racial balance law, which requires that each school fall within 25 percentage points of the overall district’s share of white and non-white students.

The two plans selected would require the state Department of Education to designate two schools, Franklin and Johnson House, as having an impending racial imbalance, since the proportion of minority students at those schools would deviate from the district average by more than 15 percent. 

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