To the Editor:

Following the recent New Milford Board of Education decision to close John Pettibone School, there has been a lot of misinformation put forth as fact and it is causing confusion to parent and the community.

Minutes of town board and commissions' meetings are public information.

The New Milford Board of Education has posted minutes and supporting documents on its website, www.newmilfordps.org.

To locate the facts, simply click on "District Information" and then "School Facility and Utilization Committee."

The Republican Town Committee thanks all members of the utilization subcommittee, which included Democrats, Republicans and Independents, and who held nine meetings from November 2012 to October 2013.

All members volunteered their time to take on the charge given to them by the Board of Education:

1) Plan for facility utilization in support of the schools mission;

2) Determine efficient use and allocation of resources in light of demographic and enrollment trends;

3) Identify alternatives to current facility uses, configuration, infrastructure, practices and/or procedures and their potential impacts.

With this mission in mind, some of the data the committee studied:

Population data from the state Department of Education, University of Connecticut, state Department of Transportation and actual enrollment numbers from the last 10 years for New Milford.

They noted an enrollment decline of 8.5 percent in the last five years.

The state Department of Education indicated enrollment would probably continue to decrease by 11.4 percent by 2017, with pre-K to grade 3 decreasing 17.6 percent by 2017.

Classroom utilization rates for all schools, maintaining all extracurricular/special classrooms, will remain as is.

Those rates showed at least 45 empty classrooms at the three elementary schools and Sarah Noble Intermediate School, and 30 percent empty classrooms at Schaghticoke Middle School.

Classroom sizes for pre-K to grade 2 must remain at 18 students or less, and 22 students or less for grades 3-8.

Increased opportunities for students in arts/music, tech/engineering, world language, science labs, and gifted and talented.

The school facility and utilization website link also provides the final committee meeting minutes of May 22, 2013, which clearly show who sat on the committee and the outcome of the final vote taken to recommend Scenario B ­-- reconfiguration of grades and the closure of Pettibone.

The vote: 20 members approved the recommendation, two abstained and five were not present.

The RTC thanks the Board of Education for undertaking the hard task of reviewing all the data and making a tough decision on the utilization of our school resources in order to meet the mission statement.

After the committee made its recommendation to the Board of Education, six special public meetings were held to gather more information and to hear comments from the community at large.

During those meetings, the following financial information was provided by the BOE administrative office:

Closing Pettibone would provide annual operational savings of $679,497.

The cost avoidance savings for planned capital improvement projects at Pettibone would equal approximately $10,500,000.

Projections to bring the Pettibone building to current code would be between $5 million and $10 million.

The Town Council pledged to place any revenue from the possible sale of the Pettibone building and land into the Board of Education capital reserve account.

Using monies that would otherwise go toward repair and upkeep of Pettibone, the Board of Education has the opportunity to use those funds to enhance the students' experience through additional science labs, computer training classes, and talented and gifted opportunities, just to name a few.

Used in this manner, the savings realized would have a far greater impact on our children's educational future.

Where children are concerned, we need to rise above petty politics and work together.

This has been an emotional decision for all concerned.

However, as a town, we need to create lasting, positive educational opportunities to ensure we provide our children the tools to excel in the world.

Pete Bass

Chairman

Republican

Town Committee

New Milford