Town's magnet school costs rise

The New Milford Board of Education voted Tuesday against paying an increase in enrollment costs for students attending the Danbury-based magnet school.

Still, the vote was symbolic, since the extra tuition must be paid, said Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote.

Seventeen New Milford students are currently enrolled in the Western Connecticut Academy of International Studies in Danbury, and a reduction in state reimbursement has meant the district will have to pay additional tuition for each of them.

For New Milford, the additional cost is expected to be just more than $4,800, or $284 per student.

"The tale of woe continues,'' Dr. Paddyfote told the school board's Operations Committee on Dec. 2.

The Danbury school district, as the host for the magnet school, sets the tuition rate, she said. The state reduced its contribution for out-of-town students, requiring Danbury to ask the other school districts to make up the difference, Dr. Paddyfote explained.

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.

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

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

Board member Thomas McSherry said the magnet school had been 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."