New Milford parents urge: 'Don't do this'
Parents urged New Milford Board of Education members this week to be very sure of their projections before closing a school in town.
About 100 residents turned out for a public hearing held by the education board Tuesday night on the topic.
Again and again, those speaking cautioned against reconfiguring grades, redistricting the town and closing John Pettibone School.
"I understand costs and efficiencies," said Chase Reynolds, a father of three children all under age 5, "but I don't care about that. I care about my kids.... and the projections you're giving don't match up."
New Milford mom Adrienne Riccio warned, "These statistics can change very quickly."
"It seems we're kicking the can down the road -- putting the tax burden on the next generation and on people who will be facing high taxes in their senior years, if a new school has to be built."
Diane Knight asked, "Have you considered the upcoming national policies regarding immigration? In Danbury, what's caused the (student) population growth is immigrants moving there. And we are tied to Danbury. As it grows, we grow."
New Milford's Board of Education is facing a difficult decision. Based on declining student population projections over the next 10 years, a School Facilities Committee has recommended closing one elementary school, moving third grade to Sarah Noble Intermediate School and having sixth-graders attending Schaghticoke Middle School.
"I am a parent with three children and all of them went to Pettibone," said Beth Falder, School Facilities Committee member and a Town Council member. "This was not an easy decision to make, but it was our charge."
"Taxpayers are asking us to do more with less and mill rate increases are not popular at this time," Falder added, noting that $635,000 would be saved immediately through staffing cuts.
Most unpopular of the proposals was the plan to move sixth-graders in with seventh- and eighth-graders at the middle school.
Teachers spoke of potential behavioral and developmental setbacks. High school student Jenna Mancini spoke of how "negative" being at Schaghticoke was even as a seventh-grader. And several New Milford moms reflected back to their years at Schaghticoke when sixth-graders attended there.
Answers to questions raised at the public hearing will appear on the town website on the Education page in the next week. A second public hearing is planned for October but no date has been set as of yet.