Officials weigh potential impact of closing Pettibone
Published 6:43 pm, Wednesday, June 26, 2013
The jury is still out.
"A rush job will just be a rush job," he added, "with all that entails. This is the first step in making this decision on consolidation."
The board was reacting to the schools facilities committee's recommendation presented that evening to close Pettibone, an elementary school in town since the mid-1950s, and reconfigure grades by either school year 2014-15 or 2015-16.
"I'm not one to give up an asset," said Tom Pilla, a committee member, "and our schools are the greatest assets of our community."
"In the early stages of this process, I was unequivocally not in support of closing a school," he added. "But the over 10 months of data gathering was an eye opener, and brought me to the conclusion that Pettibone should be closed."
Enrollment projections show a sharp decline in student population during the next nine years, with the pre-kindergarten to third grade affected the most.
Northville and Pettibone are projected to have the most dramatic decline, said Dr. JeanAnn Paddyfote, the district's superintendent of schools.
"Northville still has a high population in 2013-14 but then it drops significantly," said the district's special education director, Laura Olson. "A concern with redistricting was keeping class sizes low and we can keep class sizes within 19 students with just Hill and Plain and Northville elementary schools open."
Greg Miller, business manager for the district and a committee member, explained "roughly speaking, students north of Veterans (Memorial) Bridge would attend Northville elementary and south of the bridge would attend Hill and Plain."
The Board of Education was asked to either adopt the proposal as it stands or adopt an adapted version.
What would happen with the Pettibone building would still to be determined.
New Milford mom Roseann Petruso favored a 2015-16 implementation of the plan, as did parent Jerry English.
"I'm a teacher in another district and my concern is how far along New Milford is in implementation of the new common core standards," Petruso said. "Teachers need time to have a secure understanding of common core and the curriculum adjustments before this change is placed on them."
"We do need to make decisions going forward," English said, "but I don't think you're where you have to be yet with planning. You have a long way to go and as a taxpayer, I want to see more about the impact if we move the John Pettibone building to the town side."
A public information forum is slated for September.
The Education Board will hold several discussion meetings before reaching a decision.