East Lyme panel prefers to hold off on school redistricting

East Lyme - A Board of Education subcommittee researching the possibility of redistricting the town is not recommending moving any students to new schools at this time, but will continue to study the school system's options.

The committee presented its preliminary findings to the board on Monday.

The district recently hired a consulting firm to help guide the committee through a multi-year process to determine a solution and plan for its aging elementary schools.

"If we move students now we may have to move them again," said board and committee member Joseph Arcarese. "Let's wait for the above-referenced process to play out."

The committee, comprising school board members and administrators, also found that about 400 elementary school students would need to be moved to another school to balance student population districtwide and would require some staff changes. There would be no guarantee that the redesignation of school boundaries would result in equal distribution across the three schools, explained Arcarese.

In response to board discussions Monday, the committee will now explore the concept of the district instituting a flexibility option that would allow parents to send their children to a different elementary school to fill needed spots. Currently the district receives about 15 requests each year for students to go to a different elementary school, but the families are then typically responsible for transportation.

The committee will study the logistics of that idea, including how it could be communicated and how a policy and guidelines would be crafted.

Niantic Center School Principal Melissa DeLoreto sought to dispel the misconception that the school has much smaller classes than the other elementary schools. She explained that currently her first-grade class size is smaller than usual, but the other grades are similar to the two other elementary schools.

In response to a board question, she said that while she would welcome more students at Niantic Center, she cautioned that new students can move into the district at the beginning of the school year. Therefore, a situation could potentially arise where class spots were already filled on a voluntary basis, but the school would still need to accept the new children.

To answer the question "what do the elementary schools currently look like in terms of equity," the committee will present a breakdown of student-teacher ratios and the number of administrators at each school, said school board Chairman Tim Hagen.

k.drelich@theday.com

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