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.
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.
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