Committee will study enrollment issues at Frenchtown

A study committee is being created by the Trumbull Board of Education to explore possible solutions for what parents at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting were calling serious overcrowding issues at Frenchtown Elementary School.

Parent Michelle Genuario said the overcrowding issues were “having a discriminatory effect on our kids.”

The Aug. 29 enrollment reports shows that 669 students are attending Frenchtown, which is 50 students over the district’s initial projection. It is also far more than the town’s other elementary schools. Booth Hill enrollment is 512, Daniels Farm is 472, Jane Ryan has 412 students, Middlebrook has 455, and Tashua has 386 students in the school.

Concerned parents came to Tuesday’s meeting to urge the board and Superintendent Gary Cialfi to take action.

One father said he is from the Bronx, N.Y., where class sizes and schools are too large.

“That’s why I moved up here, it’s why I pay taxes,” the resident said.

He urged the board to check residency of students enrolled.

Lainie McHugh, former Trumbull PTSA president and Democratic candidate for the Board of Education, said she was pleased to see bus overcrowding being addressed by the district's transportation manager. She said the transportation department has been very forthcoming and parents should follow up with any concerns. Parents Tuesday night said in some cases children were sitting three to a seat and buses had as many as 27 stops.

McHugh said there has been some misinformation put out on social media regarding issues at Frenchtown, particularly with buses.

“I caution people to not listen to everything they see on social media,” McHugh said.

Board Vice Chairman Deborah Herbst assured parents the board and superintendent were monitoring the concerns closely. She commended Cialfi for taking the time and responding to every parent that contacted his office.

“Please know this board is looking very seriously at this,” Herbst said. “I can’t see how we can do anything immediate — we have to study it.”

Cialfi said the district is going to form a study committee that will address not just Frenchtown but all Trumbull’s elementary schools. It will do so in phases, with serious study beginning this October.

“All critical issues will be researched in order to identify possible redistricting options,” according to Cialfi’s presentation. “Areas of study will include class size, staffing, demographics, residency checks, transportation, space utilization, implications for middle school enrollment, and long range enrollment projections.”

Cialfi said he wants the committee to include Board of Education members, teachers, special education staff, representatives from the community and representatives from each elementary school. Cialfi said a professional consultant will also be called on.

The final phase will be an in-depth study that Cialfi wants to be complete before the district finishes its budget for the new fiscal year in late December. Cialfi, who started as superintendent in July, said he is looking forward to the opportunity to find a solution.

“This is something I feel really strongly about,” Cialfi said.

Board member Michael Ward said he wanted to be sure that Frenchtown had a room for music and art, as opposed to “art on a cart” and to no longer use two portable classrooms.

Board member Tom Kelly said the high enrollment at Frenchtown came as quite a surprise.

“Our enrollment projections are usually close to the mark,” Kelly said.

Cialfi said Frenchtown enrollment has proved difficult to predict. Last year an extra kindergarten class was prepared for that turned out not to be needed.

Herbst agreed with moving the study forward.

“I can’t say enough that if we are going to do this, we need to do it right,” she said.

The superintendent said the study had to be fair in including all elementary schools.

“We are going to look at this from every possible angle,” Cialfi said. “Everyone in this community is going to be affected, not just one school.”