NEW MILFORD -- Seventeen New Milford students are currently enrolled in the Western Connecticut Academy of International Studies, a Danbury-based magnet school, and a reduction in state reimbursement means the district will have to pay additional tuition for each of them.

For New Milford, the additional cost is expected to

be just over $4,800, or $284 a student.

"The tale of woe continues,'' Superintendent JeanAnn Paddyfote told the school board's Operations Committee on Tuesday night.

Paddyfote said when the full board meets Dec. 8, it can discuss and vote on whether to approve the increase. However, it is actually a moot question because the extra tuition must be paid.

The Danbury school district, as the host for the magnet school, sets the tuition rate, she said.

The magnet school opened four years ago, and New Milford's board was initially divided on whether to participate and on how many students to send.

One of the reasons some members balked at participating was fear that the cost would rise. For the first three years, New Milford paid $1,000 per student, but this academic year, it paid $1,500 per student.

The state reduced its contribution for out-of-town students, requiring Danbury to ask the other school districts to make up the difference, Paddyfote explained.

Committee member Alexandra Thomas asked what the magnet school offers that makes the cost worthwhile.

Maureen McLaughlin, new assistant superintendent, said the main focus of the magnet school is on world languages, and she observed a classroom where first-graders spoke Spanish fluently. "It was very impressive."

Fellow committee member Thomas McSherry said the magnet school was touted as a way to give parents a choice in their children's education that the state would back financially.

Now Connecticut is stepping away from that commitment, he said, "and it's costing us more."

In other business, the school district reviewed energy savings plans implemented in October 2006, which have saved more than $1 million since then, including $568,750 between October 2008 and September 2009.

Energy manager Bill Knipple said the effort has involved staff and students in all six schools, everything from turning off lights when a room is not in use to consolidating summer school in one building rather than offer it in several.

Contact Nanci Hutson


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