Groton schools get 'go-ahead' from state for redistricting

Groton - The school system's plan to address racial imbalance and overcrowding in the town's elementary schools has passed muster with the state Department of Education staff, Interim Superintendent John Ramos said.

Ramos presented a redistricting plan to the state in mid-December where he said it "got the go-ahead," clearing the way for a vote by the school board to approve it at a special meeting on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall annex.

The plan, developed by the consulting firm Milone & MacBroom, calls for movement of about 16 percent of the elementary school population into new schools with a shift in district boundaries for the upcoming school year.

The plans were presented to parents at several public meetings and revised to address concerns and changing school population projections. Some school board members have voiced their displeasure with the state law concerning racial balancing, calling them outdated.

But Ramos said an affirmative vote by the board on the plan is needed to ensure students and staff won't suffer a backlash due to a lack of time for planning.

"My concern is if we don't get something in place, the district will be in a state of limbo. That has repercussions. I think the board overall is reticent to pass a plan strictly on the basis of the racial discrepancies," Ramos said. "But I think the board is also clear about the fact the overcrowding is the predominant issue. I anticipate the board will vote to move the district forward."

Approval by the school board on Monday would allow Ramos to bring the final plan to the state Board of Education for approval at a meeting slated for February.

"My primary concern as interim superintendent is to ensure we have a smooth transition," Ramos said of the upcoming school year. "We know that the plan as designed satisfies a couple of major concerns, the foremost for us being overcrowding. At the same time it satisfies the state's concerns. I think its important to us to bring some resolution to the matter because there is so much to do."

Along with a budget to prepare, Ramos said he and staff must also plan for shifts in staffing, bus routes and programs associated with redistricting.

The school board's redistricting effort was the result of a notice by the state about a racial imbalance at the Catherine Kolnaski Magnet School, along with pending imbalances at several other schools. Under law, a school is considered racially imbalanced if the minority population is 25 percent higher or lower than the district average.

The potential for overcrowding at Catherine Kolnaski is blamed mostly on a jump in population of elementary students in the densely populated Branford Manor area. The number of students there grew from 193 in 2009 to 256 this school year.

A map of the proposed school district boundaries is available on the Groton school district website: www.groton.k12.ct.us

g.smith@theday.com

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