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Board of Ed. To Release Town-Wide Survey on Ridgefield School Closure

The possible approaches are to either close one of the six elementary schools in town, to redistrict for three neighborhoods each with a K-2 and 3-5 arrangement or keep all six schools active as they are.

It's one of most hotly debated issues these days,

And in an effort to reach more Ridgefield residents and gain further perspective on views held by those who don't speak at public meetings, the Board of Education voted Monday night to distribute online a questionnaire regarding the possible closure of an elementary school in town.

The survey would ask three questions anonymously concerning the future configuration of K-5 education: whether the resident is a parent of school-age children, and of what age; whether the resident has attended any of the information sessions or read Superintendent Deborah Low's presentation; and, finally, it would ask the resident to rank the three long-term approaches the district might take.

These approaches are to close one of the six elementary schools in town, to redistrict for three neighborhoods each with a K-2 and 3-5 arrangement or keep all six schools active as they are.

Though the vote passed 5-2 to distribute the questionnaire, it wasn't without debate over the wording and statistical viability thereof.

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Board members Christopher Murray and John Palermo voted against the motion, citing a lack of scientific validity in the method of reporting results.

"This is not a valid survey," Murray said. "These questions don't get to the heart of the matter."

For that reason, Murray requested the board change the wording from "survey" to "questionnaire," suggesting the questions leaned in the direction of keeping a school open without mention of the economic benefits of closing one.

"We have to be clear that this isn't a vote," Board member Amy Shinohara said. "That this is for information purposes only."

"It's another forum to collect public comment," Board Chair Austin Drukker said. "I will not base my decision solely on this piece of information."

Other members of the board who supported the motion, though, said the survey would be for informational purposes only and that its results would be just part of the information gleaned over years of debate.

The survey would be created via the website surveymonkey.com and distributed as a link in several media outlets, such as the school website, the Ridgefield Patch and the Ridgefield Press, Low said.

"After three years of hearing about this and gathering information," said Board member Irene Burgess, "it's just one more piece of the pie."

"As long as we take responses as informational only," Burgess continued, "I don't see why this would be a bad thing."

Robert Lavelle April 24, 2012 at 01:43 PM
I am comfused. Our Board of Ed. are the experts, charged with doing the objective analysis and arriving at what is the best decision. Doing surveys sets the town up for a vocal and self-interested minority to sway the process. School Board, "man up" and do your job and take care not to align yourselves with vested intetests in making what should be an objective decision.
GD April 24, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Should we close a school? Maybe. But why the rush of closing the school before we know if the school population will indeed drop to the 2,000 level? Wouldn't it make more sense to wait an extra year and see if the projections pan out, then close the school. You know what could happen here? Say we plan to shutter a school in 2014. This process isn't overnight. It would start in 2013 when we tell the teachers they won't be invited back the next year. Then when 2014 arrives and the population isn't at 2,000, what do we do? We crammed the students into trailers again? And then the parents would be well within their rights to insist the school be reopened for 2015 because the population warrants it. Close a school one year, re-open it the next year, it would cost us millions. We'd be achieving the exact opposite of what we want. Better approach. Wait until we know the population is at 2,000. Very simple way to guarantee we won't lose millions.
sebastian dangerfield April 24, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Robert, The BOE renders themselves to be less than capable if they dont understand how the 'survey' results will come in. Here they are --even before its sent out. 1) parents with pre-school through elementary school aged kids will want the school to remain open 2) parents with high school kids and older will basically not fill out the survey, but if they do, it will be to close 3) seniors with no kids will defintely vote to close. There you have it--no need to pay for a survey. Sure there might be some outliers--but in essence, this will be the result....its simply a distraction to attribute voting a certain way. and there is no way you can ever think that a BOE is objective. All people involved in politics are anything but objective--and those involved with schools-are nearly always advocates for more educational spending.
LuckyLou April 24, 2012 at 03:23 PM
I view some of these posts as nothing more than cheap digs at the volunteers on the BOE. What exactly are you posters suggesting, that the BOE is wrong to ask the residents what they want? When did asking people what they want become a bad thing?
steve zemo April 24, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Ridgefield Tax Payer: I think once seniors realize that closing a school, and saving about $65 per year for a house worth $500,000 versus the long term costs of re-opening a new school they will ask the BOE to just leave it alone at 6 schools. Didn't we go through this with the "Bundle"; re-opening, remodleing, etc. Maybe Mr. Palermo and Mr. Murray can show us otherwise
Kerri Austin April 24, 2012 at 03:59 PM
I think it is great that the BOE is not only open to the public feedback, but going out and seeking it. They are there as our elected representatives and as with any elected position they need to hear from us in order to serve us. This is a huge decision that will impact the future of our school district, and for those who hate to see school spending, our he values as well. Bring on the questionnaire! I know my stand...leave the system as is or close a school only AFTER it is necessary, not before. Under no circumstances though should we have a K-2, 3-5 structure.
Mike Taylor April 24, 2012 at 04:06 PM
There are still many outstanding questions affecting this decision. Foremost for me is the long-term (10-15 year) cost/savings. Projections already show increases in enrollment starting in 2018 or 2019. What are the costs of re-opening or expanding to accommodate this growth. We may save money in the short term as enrollment declines but that savings will disappear when it is time to pay for Bundle 2. As someone said at yesterday's BOE Lunch Bunch meeting, a decision to close a school now puts a burden on taxpayers to fund re-expansion in the future.
Tom Falconieri April 24, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Basically because the BOE CANT FIND SAND ON A BEACH. Dont close the dam school. That is exactly what the BOE and the SCHOOLIES WANT IN THE LONG RUN. Hang on folks in 5 years after the school is closed we will have the BUNDLE 2 The town of TAX AND SPEND THE SEQUEL.
Bob J April 24, 2012 at 09:40 PM
If this is a financial decision, the "opinions" of the voters are irrelevant and spending money to tally those opinions is an utter waste and, in a way, a cop-out by the decision makers. Take a stand- that's your job, volunteer or not. Don't blame the public- we typically are a dumb mob that has no idea what's good for us. Hell- we elected Dan Malloy and look how that turned out. That said, I was initially in favor of closing a school based on the enrollment projections and projected savings, but as Steve said, the savings is somewhat minimal and having lived though a couple cycles of population pattern shifts and the massive cost of "re-opening" both Branchville and Barlow Mountain once already, it seems to me that the savings in the short term will end up being lost many times over when we inevitably have to re-open a closed school or, even worse, build a new one.
Tom Falconieri April 24, 2012 at 10:14 PM
So they will save 1million smackers??? Well i find that hard to believe. Just in salaries it does not add up. With that said with an 80 million dollar budget and a school closing netting 1 million isn savings two things come to MIND First someone is LYING Second it makes no sense to close a school if it only saves a million bucks. A million bucks is a drop in the bucket to the BOE. Penny wise pound foolish BUT WAIT They will get a nice new school when enrollment goes up. That is their grand plan BUNDLE 2 Here we come!!!!!!
sebastian dangerfield April 24, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Lou cheap shots? where is there a cheap shot? How about this--why dont they send out a survey to find out if people want their taxes lower. If I say its pretty easy to guess the result--is that a cheap shot? It would be a dumb survey. I will guarantee that elementary school parents will want it open. And senior citizens will want it closed. Lou, are you telling me that the results will come in differently?
sebastian dangerfield April 24, 2012 at 10:37 PM
steve--your semantics are clever How much are the long term costs of opening a new school? And why would it be new? How about this steve--- The long term costs of reopening a school will be about 5 dollars per house over the next 20 years. Does that make it sound cheap? Or should I say aobut 3.75 over 30 years? or some other variation. Each time we spend 65 (and thats a very wrong and low number) for a school and 300 for schlumberger and 200 for a new library --it adds up. Soon we each are spending an extra couple of grand for wasteful things. the problem with this town is that I see many initiatives-- but never to save money. The stated 2000 enrollment figure --is the one where we would close----I have never read that if we have 2100 kids that we would be forced to have trailers. I know kids in my neighborhood right now that are in classes that have 7 kids in them.
Felix April 25, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Seems strange that we'd give a $5 million charitable donation to the library, but at the same time we'd shut down a school to save $1 million.
sebastian dangerfield April 25, 2012 at 04:25 AM
felix? you mean if we waste money we should continue on that trend?
Tom Falconieri April 25, 2012 at 10:18 AM
FELIX I am all for education not waste. That is why i hammer the BOE and MS LOW. They love to waste money on foolish things. This issue is simple. Closing a school should save much more than 1 million bucks case closed. But closing a school is foolish if it only wastes 1 million bucks. just look at the interest and cost of KING RUDYS FIRST BUNDLE. It gave us buildings that make absolutely no money for the town and cost us to operate (WRECK CENTER). If we close a school we will be definitely building a new one in the future. Just look at the apartments going up and the AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS PLANNED. And Steve Zemo just appeared out of now where building more of these DISGRACEFUL THINGS. He always builds SUBSIDIZED HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS.. When and if a school closes building a new one in the future is inevitable. But that is their plan i will bet any money on it. Their goal is another new school
Slmnrc April 26, 2012 at 01:33 AM
arent you the builder who promised a movie theater and we ended up with a dutchess and and apartment building - thanks for your guidence and thoughfulness. i would vote :close permantely and build onto the reaming 5 as needed - long term its less adminstration, caferiterias, maintance costs.
Slmnrc April 26, 2012 at 01:42 AM
this is so funny, one article this week talks about letting kids leave school because many of them they have to many free periods that exceed 90 mins and this article about closing schools with some people concerned about re-opening/building a new school one day. i think the way to fix this problem is to have new people running these programs
S April 26, 2012 at 12:27 PM
In order to make an educated decision not emotional, the BOE should present a cost analysis of each choice.
Bob J April 26, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Yes- they are wrong to ask for this input in teh form of a "survey." If this is a financial decision (which it is) based on financial and demographic projections, then the emotional opinions of residents are irrelevant and merely cloud the issue. It is also a smoke screen because the Board fully realizes that the vast majority of folks who actually show up and/ or go out of their way to express their opinions regarding schools and school spending typically support every penny the Board wants to spend and never support spending cuts. Ever. BTW, base on the information I have compiled, I am AGAINST closing an elementary school. This is based on numbers. But my opinion should not be considered because it is just that-- an opinion.
Lynn C May 04, 2012 at 05:24 AM
The town paid a lot of money for the company that projected the enrollment numbers before the first bundle was approved, Scotts Ridge was built and they screwed that up by building a school that is too small. The town is still using the same company to base the decision on closing a school. Luca, I'm glad that you have it all figured out. @LuckyLou, you are absolutely right, the BOE is right to ask for the residents opinion. Also, regarding the "open campus" issue, they will vote before a new principal is hired, even though he/she will have to over see it. Does anyone have the link for the BOE survey regarding the "open campus" survey?
Mike Bonheim December 13, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Robert, you;re wrong. This is a town decision because it is or tax dollars that are being managed. If a majority of town agrees to one course of action, so do a majpority of those investing in the school system

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