School board approves redistricting plan

Trumbull’s Board of Education Tuesday night approved a redistricting proposal that will take roughly 75 students, living in the Eaves housing complex, out of the Frenchtown district next year, sending them to Middlebrook Elementary School.

The vote to approve “Scenario D” was unanimous, only Democrat Rosemary Seaman was absent from the meeting. The proposal also had the support of Superintendent Gary Cialfi and the district’s enrollment study committee.

The redistricting plan was one of two presented by the committee for consideration last month. The other proposal moved more students, about 130, living in and around The Eaves. Both plans were unpopular with many parents, who cited a number of concerns. The Board of Education and superintendent said Scenario D will have the least amount of impact, while still addressing overcrowding, removal of portable classrooms and maintain class sizes, set by the district, at both schools.

The plan allows older students at Frenchtown to be “grandfathered in” to the school, so they wouldn’t have to move next year. If an older student has a younger sibling who will be moved to Middlebrook, the parents can choose to move both students.

A key part of the plan is the crafting of a policy, giving administrators the ability to decide which school new students will attend, based on future enrollment.

“The perception, and I may be wrong, is that we will be doing this again in a couple of years as enrollment changes,” Board Chairman Deborah Herbst said of redistricting. “This policy takes care of that.”

Cialfi agreed, saying the policy is a “critical” part to the redistricting plan, and the crafting of that policy is beginning immediately, so the board can review it.

Herbst said that following the vote on the proposal, the focus would be on the students who will be affected. She asked the superintendent to present a report of what services or interventions children may need that will be moving.

“This will require a seamless transition,” Cialfi said.

Both Middlebrook and Frenchtown principals will be working together, along with the curriculum department and specialists to provide data on how resources should be allocated.

Welcoming activities for new families and students will be planned.

Herbst also asked administrators to see about getting each new student a “buddy” to walk into the classroom with on the first day.

Many parents attended Tuesday’s meeting to hear the vote, but few addressed the board directly.

One resident asked the board to consider how traffic would be affected on Middlebrooks Avenue, if more student and staff are added next year.

Resident Roy Fuchs said the Board of Education needed to look at a long-range plan. He cited elementary enrollment numbers showing a decline of more that 660 students in eight years.

“The need is not the standalone quick fix of shuffling a group of students from Frenchtown to Middlebrook and spending money the district cannot afford to remove portables that enrollment decline will make unnecessary within three years,” Fuchs said. “Instead it is to redistrict the entire town to assure every student has the shortest possible bus ride — not the case today — then put a document in front of our parents to explain the closure plan and tell them which schools their children will attend between now and 2023-24, the end of the study’s planning horizon.”

The Board of Education decided last month not to hold a public forum on redistricting, despite many parents urging the board to do so. Superintendent Cialfi said much of the correspondence he received from parents were concerns about parity at the schools. He assured parents resources will be allocated where needed.