Feels closing school is 'penny wise, pound foolish'
Published 10:59 am, Wednesday, July 9, 2014
To the Editor:
Words cannot express how disappointed I am in the vote to close John Pettibone School.
I never had a child enrolled there, so I am not emotionally attached to the building. However, I feel the school closure will not be worth the projected cost savings.
We have one year to reconfigure five school buildings, physically move teachers and classrooms, and adjust support staff.
This is all while teachers and staff are transitioning to the newly implemented Common Core guidelines and new teacher evaluation standards.
Any one of those changes would be stressful in the best of circumstances.
To combine all three changes at once approaches abuse. The cost to morale, to burnout, to distraction -- and its impact on student learning -- has not been calculated in the "savings."
Changing from three elementary schools to two will impact bus schedules and traffic routes. Young children will be on longer bus rides. Traffic will be heavier at the Northville and Hill and Plain intersections.
While the exploratory committee has looked at this issue, the emotional cost to students and commuters has not been calculated.
No matter what the projected enrollment may be, the class sizes of the 2013-14 Sarah Noble Intermediate School were well above recommended 18-1 ratios.
Grade 4: 333 students, average 22-1.
Grade 5: 343 students, average 23-1.
Grade 6: 368 students, average 24-1.
Last year, SNIS saw 52 students enroll during the school year -- enough to fill nearly three classrooms.
And yet, we will be cutting teachers along with closing a school building.
The larger class sizes impact student learning and test scores, which cost has not been calculated.
We have been told closing Pettibone School will save the schools $650,000 in the first year and $10 million over 10 years.
I remain skeptical the school system will benefit from these savings.
According to state law, a school district that closes one or more schools can reduce its educational budget, meaning the mayor or town council could cut the school budget to below the traditional zero percent increase.
The hidden costs of further underfunding the school system have not been calculated.
I fail to see the economic advantage of yet another empty building or vacant lot on Route 7.
We have land and buildings aplenty there, but no buyers. There has been discussion of the town razing the school to enhance the property value.
That cost has not been calculated.
What about the potential negative impact to the adjacent playground and ballfields?
How are we perceived by outsiders -- or by newcomers shopping to buy homes in our town?
Do we want New Milford to be seen as the ghost town where they closed a school, shut down half the hospital and kicked out the soup kitchen?
Where they built a mall and no one came?
Where half of Main Street is empty? None of this has been calculated.
What can be calculated is that closing Pettibone School is penny-wise, but pound-foolish.
The hidden costs will be dear and difficult to recoup.