Public input needed on declining enrollment


The Board of Education’s recent appointment of Dr. Kathryn Y. Veronesi as the new superintendent of schools for Regional District 13 brought a successful conclusion to arguably its most important responsibility. The high level of community support and participation in the selection process was invaluable and contributed significantly to its success. Selection criteria developed as part of the Community Assessment were an integral factor in the final selection.

The board is now seeking community support with another important challenge; developing a comprehensive strategic plan to address declining enrollment in the district. Here’s how you can help.

The board invites you to participate in a series of community workshops regarding the development of a utilization plan for district schools. The first workshop will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 29 in the cafeteria at Coginchaug Regional High School from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The purpose of the first workshop is to get your ideas on how the board should address declining enrollment.

The board has selected Drummey Rosane Anderson, Inc. to develop a Facilities Utilization Study. DRA has been conducting building evaluations and will meet with school staff to conduct programming and educational planning meetings throughout the fall. The Oct. 29 workshop is part of this initial evaluation process and is designed to listen and obtain your input.

Breakout sessions will collect your thoughts, comments and input on the following topics:“Containers” - the physical facilities; “Contents”---educational programming; “Currents”---RSD 13’s trends, including demographics and enrollments, and; “Children/students”---focusing on the issues and needs of students

Anyone who lives in Durham or Middlefield, is a parent, a student, a family member, a taxpayer, a senior, a teacher, an elected official, anyone who works or is retired, members of the business community or civic groups, members of the clergy and anyone else who has an interest in the future of RSD 13 can attend the workshops. All members of our communities are invited and encouraged to attend and share your thoughts and concerns. If you are unable to attend send your comments to feedback@RSD13publicschools.org or call the Board of Education with any questions at (860) 349-7200.

Subsequent workshops will focus on “Alternatives: Understanding the options”, scheduled for Dec. 11 and “Shaping Recommendations for Board consideration”, at a date to be determined in January 2014. Since the focus of each of these workshops is different, it would be most beneficial if you are able to attend all three.

The overall goal of the school utilization study is to align enrollment trends with district wide operational and program efficiencies in order to make the best use of district and taxpayer resources while optimizing educational opportunities for our students.

The potential benefits to be obtained from the study are wide ranging and include the following: 1. review and update the physical status of buildings and grounds including possible capital improvement needs 2. assess facility needs and capabilities to more effectively incorporate technology in our educational programs 3. review educational programs to determine more efficient uses of our facilities 4. assess the security and safety status of our facilities and 5. consider the impact on transportation costs of any alternative proposals.

The Board of Education has not made any decision or reached any conclusion about how best to respond to decreasing enrollment in the district. For now, our focus is on gathering facts and information and listening to community comment, input and feedback.

The school utilization study may be the single most important initiative undertaken in the district in many years. While the challenges are many, the opportunities for improving district operations, cost savings and, most importantly, enhancing the educational experience and preparedness of our children are far greater.

Bob Fulton is treasurer for the Board of Education and a member of its Facilities Study Committee.



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