4 Redistricting Options Presented To Fairfield School Board

Feb 24, 2020
Fairfield Boe Presentation 02112020 Pd Page 04 Mobile

FAIRFIELD, CT — The relationship between housing developments planned for Fairfield and the shape of the school district was a major topic of discussion when the Board of Education considered redistricting options at a recent meeting.

"I don't think it's a conversation that anyone is excited about. Redistricting is emotional," board Chair Christine Vitale said after a presentation Feb. 11 from engineering firm Milone and MacBroom, which was recorded by FairTV. "... We're really just looking for a long-term solution for the overall wellbeing of our district."

The board asked the firm last summer to come up with redistricting scenarios that would alleviate racial imbalance at McKinley Elementary School and present a variety of options for the district's early childhood center, while maintaining neighborhoods and class size guidelines.

In Connecticut, schools with a population of minority students that varies by 25 percent or more from the overall district minority population for the same grades is considered racially imbalanced and requires the submission of a correction plan to the state. McKinley has been not complied with the law since 2007 and the district last updated its racial balance plan in 2016.

Under each of the redistricting options presented, McKinley would no longer be considered imbalanced. Instead, both McKinley and Holland Hill elementary schools would be classified as impending imbalance, meaning their minority populations would vary from the overall population by 15 percent or more, but less than 25 percent.

Milone and MacBroom's first redistricting scenario involved repurposing Jennings Elementary School as a districtwide early childhood center and pre-kindergarten facility. The second option called for pocket redistricting to reduce racial imbalance at McKinley and keeping pre-kindergarten at Stratfield Elementary School and Fairfield Warde High School. Scenario three would see five pre-kindergarten classes each moved to Holland Hill and North Stratford elementary schools. The fourth option would feature six pre-kindergarten classrooms at Warde, two at Holland Hill and two at North Stratfield.

Planner Pat Gallagher told the board that Fairfield has 11 projects, each with 40 residential units or more, in the planning or approval stage, and that the developments are geographically concentrated near McKinley and Holland Hill. He added that since the units are expected to be mostly small apartments, he projected that more than 1,000 units will yield a mere 136 students.

Board member Jennifer Jacobsen asked if the firm expected the planned developments on the east side of town to result in a greater racial imbalance, but planning director Mike Zuba said such trends were difficult to predict.

"There's just really no way to grapple with it. It's dynamic," he said.

Vice Chair Nick Aysseh asked if there was a way to further break up the minority populations at Holland Hill and McKinley, but Gallagher said the trade off was compromising the district's neighborhood school model.

"Right now it just so happens that those neighborhoods are near McKinley and Holland Hill," Gallagher said.

Board members also noted that the numbers in Milone and MacBroom's projections assumed students who attend schools outside their neighborhood to participate in special programs would return to their neighborhood school in a redistricting.

"Many — most — of these utilization numbers are inaccurate and I think that's very important for the public and for other town bodies to understand," board member Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly said.

Vitale concluded the discussion by emphasizing that any redistricting is at least a few years away and that much discussion will take place in the interim.

To view Milone and MacBroom's presentation, visit

Read the original article here.

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