Ridgefield Parents Blast School Closure Plans

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Members of the Facilities Reconfiguration Committee listen to Ridgefield parents and residents concerns Monday night at a public hearing regarding a school closure. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith
Ridgefield parent Karen Griffiths tells the committee that the decision to close a school was coming too early and that not all of the appropriate criteria had been considered. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – Two of the six elementary schools in Ridgefield are on the chopping block if or when the Board of Education chooses to close a building.

Scotland Elementary and Farmingville Elementary were chosen as the schools most likely to close, based on a grading system put together by the Facilities Reconfiguration Committee. The committee explained its grading system to parents and residents at a public hearing at East Ridge Middle School on Monday night.

All of the town's schools were graded on 10 criteria, each on a scale of 1 to 3, or lowest priority to highest priority. Farmingville came in with the highest score, and Ridgebury Elementary had the lowest score. The criteria included walkability, redistricting and busing, impact to local businesses and cost of staffing.

“You could conclude that [Farmingville] is the most likely, or most desirable, to close based on these criteria,” said Paul Sutherland, committee member and Board of Finance member.

But many parents and residents questioned the committee about the criteria choices and said they were not without bias or subjectivity. One of the biggest concerns raised was that redistricting and busing wasn’t the most important criteria considered.

“When I look at the criteria truly to me, the only one that should be ranked No. 1 and most important is going to be the smallest and least impact is the busing. That’s the only criteria on this list that’s actually affecting the children,” parent Michele Altopp said.

Another concern raised was the possible cost of reopening a closed school, an issue the committee had not addressed. Many parents asked why the Board of Selectmen hasn’t said what might happen to an empty school and what kind of revenue it might produce.

They also questioned the amount of money that would be saved by closing one school. The savings total about $1 million, Superintendent Deborah Low said. One parent said $1 million in an $87 million budget was insignificant.

Liz Fogerty, a mother of a Branchville student, said, “We are not yet ready to make a proper decision on closing a school, much less which one.”

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akelemen:

George last year 81% of the schools budget was spent on salaries and benefits, another 10% was spent on transportation & utilities. This left 9% of that $87mio budget for everything else. Adding $1mio is pretty significant in the everything else bucket.

regnery:

$1 million savings on $87 million isn't that much, but there are large parts of the budget that are untouched: high school, middle school, special ed, etc. However, with 2,000 elementary students, $1 million in savings is $500 per student.

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