Letter: Redistricting and enrollment questions for Board of Education

To the Editor:

I attended the Board of Education meeting on Aug. 20 to gain some insight as to how the board is hoping to address the issue of increased enrollment. My son’s first grade class has increased enough to warrant another teacher. This was surprising because last year, the smallest entering class to Frenchtown in its history, had four kindergartens. My son’s class at the end of the year had 21 students. As Tom Kelly stated during the BOE meeting, the guidelines are for a maximum of 20 students in kindergarten.

The issue of the higher numbers per classroom happens frequently at Frenchtown. During the last school year both of my children had new students join them in their classrooms after the school year began. This would explain the increase to 21 students in my son's kindergarten class. I believe that my children are receiving an excellent education because of the staff at Frenchtown, despite the high numbers.

What was enlightening to hear at the meeting was the actual enrollment numbers that were presented by Dr. Cialfi. He explained how, across the town, most of the elementary schools were at the maximum of 25 students per class in at least one or more grades.

What some members of the community would like others to believe is that there are “residency issues” at Frenchtown. People are “scamming” their way into our schools who are not taxpayers. This does happen, but I don't believe that the 34 extra students beyond the projected BOE numbers for Frenchtown “scammed their way in.” Someone at the meeting reported that “people have emailed me stating they know of people who really don’t live here.” Then report those questionable families. We do have staff and BOE members that look into this serious issue. Hiring a residency officer, as had been suggested, is ridiculous. It is a waste of resources. Once the matter is reported, it is then up to the BOE to investigate. Deborah Herbst reported she has worked on such cases. The public is not always privy to the legitimate circumstances that may surround a child attending our school system.

During Dr. Cialfi's presentation, an interesting fact emerged. Frenchtown is packed. We have lost our art and music rooms. We have two portables. Three children who are technically in the Frenchtown district and do not have “ties” to the school are to attend Middlebrook. Any new children that move to the Frenchtown district will have to go to Middlebrook. We are not talking about students per classroom but about actual, physical classrooms. There is no more space. Isn’t it time to seriously revisit the idea of redistricting? While I know this topic is upsetting to many families, myself included, for the greater good of a superior education with more equitable distribution of available resources to all children, I think we should support and encourage the BOE to pursue redistricting.

Sonya Wich