By Jesse Buchanan
As published in the Record Journal Thursday January 28, 2010
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WALLINGFORD — Questions about proposed school district reconfiguration came fast and heavy from concerned parents to school administrators Wednesday night at Yalesville School.
Elementary school principals and Board of Education members didn’t have all the answers but said the reconfiguration was not already decided, and they welcomed comments and concerns.
“This is not set in stone. This is just a proposal,” said School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo. “We are definitely still listening — this is not a finished process.”
Many parents differed, though, saying Wednesday’s forum was just a formality.
“It seems to me that this is a done deal,” said Yalesville parent Angela Jagrosse. “I’m feeling that this is just a big hoax and this is just away to appease parents.”
Forum participants were broken into four groups and led through four discussions on aspects of the proposed change, which would divide the eight elementary schools into four schools with kindergarten to grade 2 and four schools with grades 3 to 5.
The reconfiguration would save the district more than $1 million, according to administrators, although that number has been contested by some who oppose reconfiguration. Parents also questioned whether dividing the elementary schools had any educational benefit.
Carolyn Hall, a teacher at Yalesville School and a parent of two, said Connecticut school districts such as Ansonia that went to a K-2, 3-4 model suffered from decreasing test scores.
Before the forum, Gina Cewe-Barrett, a member of the Facebook group “Concerned Parents Wallingford CT Board of Educ. Budget,” was handing out packets with information on the decrease of student performance in other districts.
Yalesville School Principal Kent M. Hurlburt said the data on the subject was mixed, but the reconfiguration could have benefits since the schools could focus on age-specific students. Much of the impetus for the reconfiguration proposal was in response to decreasing state revenues, he said.
“This is a tremendous financial crisis,” Hurlburt said. “We were faced with ‘do we up class sizes or reconfigure?’ ” The four forums discussed different aspects of the proposed reconfiguration: transportation, class size, educational opportunities and the psychological effects of transition on children.
Chris and Jamie Bowen, parents of a Yalesville first-grader and kindergartner, said they had been to most of the parent forums and board meetings on the reconfiguration issue. What Jamie Bowen heard at Wednesday’s forum didn’t help her anxiety.
“I’m just as concerned as I was coming in,” she said. “I don’t think they answered my questions.”