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Danbury School Crowding Plan Outlined

Sister schools, partner schools, you pick it, were created to ease over crowding that is expected to continue in Danbury schools.

Trish Beneway, who has a second grader at Shelter Rock today and will have a kindergartener next year as well, said Danbury schools are overcrowded because the city is affordable.

It's affordable because the taxes are low. The taxes are low because the city doesn't build enough schools, Beneway said.

Danbury has the biggest high school in the state. It has two middle schools and the city needs a third, but the real problem is in the elementary schools, all said Monday night by Danbury Superintendent of Schools Sal Pascarella, Ed.D. The schools held a meeting on how over crowding will be handled in 2012-13. At least 200 parents attended the meetings, and the questions went on for more than 45 minutes.

"I'm appauled at the school conditions," said Christina Sweeney, who has a kindergartner at Mill Ridge and a second child in pre-school.

Both Sweeney and Beneway, along with their friends Wendi Wright and Bianca Perrone, also school parents, were disappointed by Monday's discussion of the school overcrowding solution.

"There's no new information," Perrone said. "We're walking out of here with the same question."

The "same question" was will the Board of Education "guarantee" her children wouldn't be split up next year into two schools. Perrone has a kindergartner in Shelter Rock and a third grader this year. She wants them in the same school, guaranteed.

Wright wrote the question, but the four friends were all looking for some kind of guarantee their school age children (all four have two elementary school students each) would all attend the same school without splitting up the family.

Pascrella and Board Chairman Irving Fox said the plan isn't final yet, but he repeated at least three times Monday night the goal is to keep students from the same family together in the same elementary school. No, he couldn't guarantee it.

Fox said the board's goal is to have a final plan, probably in November. Right now the plan is to pair the two most crowded elementary schools, Shelter Rock and Mill Ridge Primary schools, each with a second less crowded school, Shelter Rock with Great Plain and Mill Ridge with Hayestown Avenue school.

At the same time the board is figuring out how to manage the next two years, the city is considering a longer-range plan called 2020 that is likely to include building or buying a new school. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said at the Mayoral Debate the city will ask voters for bond money in April 2012 for school improvements.

This year some students are being bused from Shelter Rock to Great Plain, and one parent Christy Harty, who lives next door to Shelter Rock, sends her children to Great Plain. She attended the meeting to make sure this would continue.

Harty's family has three children, a first grader, third grader and a fifth grader. When she learned a week before school her third grader couldn't go to Shelter Rock, a week later she learned all three were going to Great Plain. She'd moved into Danbury in August, just before school began.

"I don't want to change. We're good with it," Harty said.

Kevin Haddad October 25, 2011 at 09:23 PM
As a taxpayer, I'm concerned that we will have to bus these students around town indefinitely. If a child begins Kindergarten somewhere other than their home school, do we then seperate them from their friends in teachers in 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade? Or do we bus kids around the district all the way through 5th grade? I see other flaws too. What about the children who live within walking distance of MRP and will then be sent to Hayestown? Meanwhile kids who live near Lake Waubeeka are being bused to MRP. It seems like the district is moving toward a complicated shell game with its students.
Semmas October 26, 2011 at 02:12 PM
I know when I bought my house - I made sure it was in a good school district. I would be quite upset if I had to send my children to a "different" school, other than the school I thought they would be attending. I'm sure this is going to be a BIG problem for a lot of people. The bigger question is - why are there so many more children attending elementary school this year?
David A. Stevenson October 26, 2011 at 02:43 PM
Taxes in the future will be higher because of the debt service from the purchase of a "future head start school" years ago - and its subsequent demolition because the Mayor and majority on the City Council neglected to inspect it for asbestos and lead. The Mayor's contention that the building is being demolished because it sat idle for so long is disingenuous at best. Lead and Asbestos did not sneak into the building while it was sitting idle for years. It was there before it was purchased - and routine inspections would have affected the purchase of the property - as it well should have. Also, during the time Mayor Bought on and the City Council have been sitting, one school was demolished and replaced by one smaller single-story school. Do our elected officials expect that Danbury's school population would not increase at all over the past ten years ? Do any of them deserve re-election ? Let them speak for themselves. The Mayor has led the way with whining and excuses. Council members - it's your turn.
David A. Stevenson October 26, 2011 at 02:45 PM
Point well made, Kevin. Children deserve stability throughout their school careers.
David A. Stevenson October 26, 2011 at 02:48 PM
Buyers I represent know that all of the elementary schools in Danbury are excellent - and that there are many benefits to living in a small city, where having many schools and many children allow the flexibilty to have many languages and a wide variety of musical instruments taught.
Semmas October 26, 2011 at 06:58 PM
From your point of view, the mayor is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't build a new school. He'd be accused of spending too much money if he built something. And by the way, I don't disagree with you that all schools in Danbury are good, but people buy their house in a particular neighborhood perhaps because they like a particular school and it's not fair to them to have some politician or anyone else all of a sudden tell them their kid can't go to that school.
David A. Stevenson October 26, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Good point about neighborhood schools, Savannah. On the mayor's choices of school spending (a.) buying a school without inspecting it first - like any rational property buyer would do, or (b.) building a one-story school when a two-story school is needed to address overcrowding - just very poor planning and decision making by the mayor and the council - as Lynn Taborsak pointed out during their debate.
Kevin Haddad October 27, 2011 at 01:15 AM
Don't forget the BOE closed an Elementary School just two years ago. I also wonder that people's thoughts are on redistricting in general. I would think if my whole street or condominium complex was redistricted it wouldn't be so bad. As stated, all of the schools are good.
Kate Talbott October 27, 2011 at 02:32 AM
Personally I would much rather pay more in taxes and know my kids will go to a good public school rather than be forced to send them to a private school or move to another district. Danbury schools do not have a good reputation from what I have heard and seen. Danbury needs to prioritized schools and that may mean raising taxes. People should know that good schools raise property values and it is worth paying for if you have kids or not. Also I live within walking distance of Park Avenue School, and while right now it appears unaffected by these changes, in a year or two that might change and I would not be pleased to have my kids bused across town when we have a school right around the corner. I want my kids to go to school with their neighbors, allowing the neighborhood to develop as a community.
Mom2two October 27, 2011 at 10:21 AM
All the kids end up in the same high school anyway..... I would think redistricting by geography rather than who is new would seem more effective in the long run. How do you sell a home and not even know what school the kids would go to? My kids are out of the elementary schools now. We were in a "good" school....meaning "not failing". I have to tell you that I am much more impressed with what my kids are learning at the "failing" middle school and high school right now. The elementary schools are so consumed with the CMT that it seems kids who are "on track" are left behind......
Denise October 27, 2011 at 03:54 PM
It’s about time we ask the citizens of Danbury how they feel and not our politicians. It is clear that the Mayor, BOE & Superintendant does not and WILL not fathom the idea of having to spend $ (there’s a vote around the corner you know & they want to stay on everyone’s good side!)We need the “City” to figure out where the $ will come from. It is about time we stop thinking on how NOT to spend any $ and start figuring out where it will come from. The city needs to stop cutting spending on our schools this should not be accepted anymore and we must stop it now! Our children should not suffer due to the state of the economy created by the adults. We need more classrooms and this is a fact. These meetings have been a waste of my time, we have expressed several times that we need classrooms not “Sister Schools”. This is just absurd, we are busing children that live within waking distance, how is this saving $.

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