School Redistricting: Scarice Advises Unrushed Timetable

Redistricting of Westport’s elementary and middle schools — sure to be a hot topic in coming months — was on the agenda at yesterday’s Board of Education meeting. “06880” intern Andrew Brennan reports:

The main purpose of redistricting is to “achieve a more appropriate balance of students,” as overcrowding and lack of access to certain spaces and equipment become more prevalent.

Superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice.

Last night at Staples High School, superintendent of school Thomas Scarice recommended a flexible, unrushed timeline for planning and implementation. Three phases would span the next two years.

Phase one would involve research and other preparation — for example, determining enrollment projections — acting as a baseline for the next two phases.

This phase would be heavily influenced by the board, especially in areas like clarifying main goals and dates of the process.

The second phase would build on phase one to develop, formulate and test a redistricting plan. Scarice strongly recommended community input in the development of a plan.

The third phase would be the implementation of the plan that the Board decided was themost optimal.

During the meeting, Scarice was steadfast in his opinion that the implementation of a redistricting plan must take place no sooner than September 2025,

He said that the redistricting process was delicate and imperfect, but one that should be done well enough that it would only have to be done once. Rushing through steps to complete the process early could cause errors that would have been avoidable if those steps had been taken more slowly.

Despite circumstances in some schools, notably Long Lots Elementary where overcrowding has become an issue and classes like music take place in hallways, Scarice sees this as part of an ebb and flow of student enrollment. he noted that until recently, Long Lots was undercrowded.

Long Lots is Westport’s most crowded elementary school.

He favors a more drawn-out, but ultimately more effective, timeline of implementation, even as overcrowding exists in some schools.

Some board members countered that speeding up the process could make students’ learning experiences better, even at the risk of making mistakes in the process — most notably. having to move a student more than once between schools, something all members agreed would be a failure of the plan.

Board member Robert Harrington proposed a speedier timeline to counteract particularly Long Lots’ overcrowding issues for the good of students.

Scarice acknowledged the disparity in student populations and access to certain equipment, but saw it as necessary tradeoff in favor of a more thorough and effective process of implementing a redistricting plan in the future.

The board will continue redistricting discussions in future meetings.

(“06880” will follow the redistricting issue closely. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

7 responses to “School Redistricting: Scarice Advises Unrushed Timetable

  1. Bobbi Essagof

    As a staff member who witnessed the redistricting when SES was opened made a lot of people really mad. Redistricting should start with every school’s secretary and principal and admin is in charge of scheduling. The secretaries know the students, the buildings and the best ways to shuffle everybody around. They do it daily on a moments notice.The schedulers are the next most knowlgeable. No offense but the board only knows what is on paper or what they see when visiting, everyone on best behavior. Furthermore, no secretary or school administrator would be given a year for anything. I’m not saying it should be rushed but a year to research and plan seems to be a huge waste of money. Three years in middle school and it’s over. High School almost and Elementary just about half. No matter what is decided someone will be unhappy but get it done and put everyone out of their misery.

  2. Bobbi Essagof

    I was also a parent when Bedford Middle opened and watched my child’s KHS 5th grade split in 1/2. Of course her best friends went ti BMS and she to CMS. They all survived. Kids are more resilient than their parents and in the end know more people when they all reconvene at SHS.

    • Eric Buchroeder

      My late mother was an elementary school secretary and I can not agree with you more.

    • David J. Loffredo

      I love that comment “kids are more resilient than their parents”. So true.

      As a Westport lad in the 70’s – I went to the Nature Center for pre school, Riverview Kindergarten (I think that was the name), Bedford El for 1st grade (then it closed), KHS for 2/3/4 until we moved across town and then Burr Farms for 5th. 5 schools in 7 years – I knew half the town before we moved to MI.

  3. Guessing this too-long process is to ensure all the parents get a chance to voice their many opinions on why Johnny/Susie can’t be moved to school X! Our kids were shuffled during the last redistricting. It all worked out well. In some ways, it was an improvement frankly. Better for the kids to enact this ASAP – if this is a known issue, why not start sooner and get it done for the start of the 2024 school year?! Long Lots is a great school but too many people seem to think it’s “the best” elementary school in Westport. Our personal experience was that two others were equally strong.

  4. Miriam Young

    Our kids, collectively as a town, frankly, have been through enough and have more than shown their resilience by navigating a global pandemic, zoom school, 1/2 days, full days wearing masks, etc. We’ve only had one normal school year in 3 years. I’m hoping one of the options on the table is re routing families whose children are not yet in school, ie grandfathering those already in their school. That feels like the more thoughtful long game.

  5. Sharon Fiarman

    How about modular classrooms at Long Lots in the meantime to help with the overcrowding until a solution is reached? Also, it’s very distasteful if there are conversations swirling that one elem. school is better than another. When we moved to Westport 16 yrs ago with 2 young children, every elem. school had equally exceptional reputations, that is still true and any discussion to the contrary should be shut down. Ask any parent at any elem. school which one is the best and they’ll tell you that theirs is, that tells you everything you need to know, people love their schools, they’re all great!