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RSD #17 BOE Addresses Declining Enrollment

Submitted by Jennifer Favalora, PTO member.

Last Tuesday evening, October 16, 2017, the Strategic Capital Planning Committee of the Regional School District #17 Board of Education presented four scenarios to the entire Board of Education for closing one or two elementary schools in our district.   While keeping all schools open is still an option, the BOE wanted to recognize that it has been closely monitoring the shifting needs of the community as well as the looming budget cuts from the state.
Beginning over a year ago, the SCP Committee started phase one of the process, first gathering data about historical birth rates, housing markets, and current space utilization then coming up with ten scenarios for closing at least one school in the district.  After putting each of these ten scenarios to task for their educational value, fiscal value and execution value they narrowed the list to four.  Last Tuesday began phase two; to present the four remaining scenarios to the Board for discussion and eventually take a closer look at true costs and savings.  In each of these scenarios only the basic of numbers were presented.  Transportation costs and renovation costs have not been studied.  Closing one school saves $196,658  and two schools saves $393,317 in infrastructure; but that is only if the school is sold outright and immediately.  Costs of a building left sitting, such as maintenance and insurance, have also not yet been identified.
The first scenario (A) is to close one of the Haddam elementary schools and combine the student populations of Burr and HES.  In this scenario KES and the Haddam school would house Kindergarten through third grade.  Fourth graders would move up to the middle school.  At HKMS there would be a fourth and fifth grade intermediate school with it’s own administration run separately from the sixth through eighth grade middle school.  This scenario would reduce an estimated 15.5 full time staff.
The second scenario (B) would be to create two Kindergarten through eighth grade schools, one on the HKMS campus and one in a renovated HES or BES campus.  HKHS would remain the same and two elementary schools would close.  Renovations would be needed to both the middle school, to accommodate elementary age students, and to Burr or HES to bring it up to HKMS standards.  17.5 full time staff would be let go.
The third scenario (C)  would be to build a new, or renovate-as-new a single K-3 elementary school for the district.   Fourth and fifth graders would attend the intermediate school housed at HKMS which would also be home to a sixth through eighth grade middle school.  The high school remains the same and two elementary schools would close.  Infrastructure savings would be the same as scenario B and 25.5 full time staff positions would be let go.
The final scenario (D) brings Central Office back to being utilized as a school.  In this scenario, one district K-2 school would be housed in Haddam.  Grades three through six would attend HKMS.  Finally, Central Office and the high school would be renovated to accommodate grades seven through twelve.  In this scenario staffing would be reduced by 22.5 positions.
The BOE will meet again on November 14, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. to further discuss these scenarios and narrow down their options by taking a closer look at the numbers. The meeting is open to the public to attend, but public comment will not be allowed.  A community input session will be scheduled, most likely in January,  after the Board has narrowed down their options.
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2 Responses to RSD #17 BOE Addresses Declining Enrollment

  1. trish jarrell

    November 2, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    I commend the committee for all their hard work in getting to the four scenarios addressing declining enrollment. I’m sure a lot of work and thought went into producing the recommendations. In the article there is no discussion of just splitting students between two of the existing elementary schools. Is that not possible because of space? Has this option been discussed in other public school board meetings?
    I don’t believe it has been addressed in this publication either.

    • Jen Favalora

      November 13, 2017 at 9:14 pm

      Trish, I take it you don’t mean what was presented in Scenario A, but rather redistrict the population so that HES & Burr have more even class sizes? No this was not presented as an option in the public meetings I attended. The problem, I believe, is not that the elementary class sizes are too small but rather the middle school was built too big and is not utilized to it’s potential. If it were just class sizes being too small, then all elementary aged children would be redistricted to two elementary schools. But K-4 just doesn’t fit at today’s enrollment levels into only two schools. The numbers are not that low. So they are proposing sending an entire grade up to the middle school to fill in the space there.