OPINION: RTM Republican leadership reacts to actions of BOE

The Town of Fairfield’s legislative body, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), does not have oversight over the Board of Education (BOE) or its discussions regarding potential school redistricting. As RTM members, we are representatives of the people, and over recent weeks we have heard from an increasing number of constituents who have concerns about whether their children may be bussed to a different school as a result of BOE actions.

Currently, the BOE has an approved long-term facilities plan in place, developed several years back, that outlines a target capacity of 504 students for renovated elementary schools. The next two schools up for renovation are Holland Hill and Mill Hill. Recently, the BOE moved to reduce the target capacities for both of these schools to 462 and 441 students respectively. The total cost of both renovation projects is now estimated at $22.4 million, down from $25 million (all before an expected state reimbursement rate of roughly 25 percent).

When these revisions were reviewed recently at the Board of Finance’s Capital Planning Summit, Republican RTM Majority Leader Edward Bateson voiced his objection to the change and publicly requested that the BOE reconsider its approach and today calls on the BOE to reinstate a renovated capacity level of 504 students at both Holland Hill and Mill Hill. Deputy Majority Leader Michael D. Herley shares Bateson’s concern about the ramifications of the BOE’s modified approach.

While some members on the BOE postulate that redistricting may be a prudent approach to solve school capacity issues, RTM Republican leadership believes it is a shortsighted approach that lacks evenhandedness. Following the renovations at Osborn Hill, Stratfield, Roger Sherman and Riverfield School, all of these local neighborhoods now have elementary schools with capacity for 504 students. Majority Leader Bateson questioned, “Don’t the good people of Holland Hill and Mill Hill deserve the same?” He added, “I think so and believe it is best if we go back to the originally recommended student capacity plan and put local neighborhoods first.”

Expressing concern about the BOE’s new approach and reflecting on his tenure on the RTM, Deputy Majority Leader Herley remarked, “I cannot recall one fully vetted, elementary school renovation project (from the long-term facilities plan) that was presented to the RTM for funding that did not ultimately receive approval—with many of these renovations receiving near unanimous support. This is called making sound investments in Fairfield’s educational system and paying it forward.”

RTM Republican Leadership remains concerned about the BOE’s new tempered approach to investing in our local elementary school renovation projects and encourages the Board to revert to the student capacity levels outlined in its original long-term facilities plan for such projects.


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