Farmington School Board Considers New Highmeadow Sections
The district's only school of choice would be open to more than 50 new families.
Previously a K-5 school, Highmeadow lost two sections when officials in 2010 reconfigured the district to a K-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-12 grade structure.
On Tuesday, a committee charged with studying the school's capacity presented three options that would help bring the school closer to its capacity. Supt. Susan Zurvalec said without any action, it would be the district's "least efficient, most underutilized" building.
However, she did not recommend the committee's preferred option, which would cost $750,000 and add three sections in 2012-2013, then one per year until the building reached capacity.
"In a perfect world, we would have had a similar recommendation for option 3," Zurvalec said, adding the district is not in a financial position to implement it. Also, she said, the district is launching a study of all facilities, and "it would be premature to do renovations when we don't have a plan in place."
The option she recommended would add a kindergarten and 1st grade section in 2012-2013. In the following year, those students would move up, requiring a new section in 2nd grade, while kindergarten would drop back to two sections.
This creates a "bubble" that would continue to cycle through the grade levels until the school reaches capacity. The committee's report noted this would mean one section's curriculum and materials would be stored for three years, until the bubble caught up with that grade level again.
Another challenge would be the additional vehicles stacked up at the beginning and end of the school day, Zurvalec said. School officials already have a contentious relationship with some neighbors on Minglewood over traffic issues.
Zurvalec estimates the addition of two sections would add another 30-32 vehicles to the mix.
While no construction would be required, because classrooms already exist, the committee said the cost to add lockers, curriculum materials and 2.2 full-time equivalent teachers would be around $210,000.
Resident David Anderson questioned where the district would find the money to implement the change, given recent projections of a probable budget shortfall. He cited other ways the money could be used, including technology, and wondered if the district was "robbing Peter to pay Paul," given declining enrollments at the K-4 level.
"To be clear, Highmeadow is not costing the District anything by being underutilized," he said.
Board members will take another look at the plan during their March 6 meeting. To view all three plans, download the Feb. 7, 2012 board packet from the district's website.