The 2019 NESDEC Report was a topic of discussion at the November 6 New Fairfield Board of Education meeting. The yearly report provides districts with 10-year enrollment projections that help schools to plan and allocate resources. In a pattern that has continued for many years, New Fairfield’s enrollment is projected to decline.
NF administrators gave the news a positive spin, with Dr. Pat Cosentino stating that “Although we are decreasing over the next 10 years [by] 109 students, which is 5%…I think we are going to start to see an improvement.” With new schools in place, officials hope the town will continue to attract more families. “We are kind of plateauing right now and I think we are going to be OK,” Dr. Cosentino said. The full NESDEC report is available on the school’s website.
High school science teachers, Ms. Jean Gephart and Ms. Kim Salta, proposed a new NFHS science class in Human Genomics. A cutting-edge topic, the course would offer students of all abilities a semester to study genes and how they are sequenced, perform experiments, and have in-depth discussions about bioethics. Ms. Salta attended a training on the potential course at Jackson Laboratories in Bar Harbor, ME, this past summer and was excited to begin planning for the class. Potentially a one semester science elective for juniors and seniors, the class is designed to excite learners and open up new avenues of study. Ms. Salta noted that initial expenses are negligible as Jackson Labs subsidizes all of the chemicals and other supplies.
Ms. Salta and Ms. Gephart were prepared to address ethical questions before they were even asked, pointing out that although the students’ DNA would be studied in class, they could opt out if they or their parents were uncomfortable with them submitting samples, their DNA would be anonymously analyzed and destroyed by both the school and Jackson Laboratories at the semester’s end, and they would only be analyzing genes that are not in any way linked to diseases.
If approved, NFHS would be leading the state in offering the course, as most schools study this material in a two-week period. Jackson Laboratories works with 50 schools in CT on the shorter-term curriculum, plus over 500 schools in the country on varying lengths of courses. With the recent changes for science curriculum in place–offering Biology to freshman, Chemistry to sophomores, and Physics to Juniors–the science department is enthused to begin offering a new, engaging elective.
In a brief school building project update, it was noted the town’s Permanent Building Committee (PBC) is meeting frequently to narrow down the architect options. The PBC chair Pete Viola has stepped down, with George Marginetti stepping in as chairman. Mr. Ed Sbordone noted that “They’re moving forward quickly.”
The board voted to approves several grants, including the annual Title I through IV grants and the DERX Foundation Grants to fund the Middle School’s Breakfast Club and Student News.
In subcommittee updates, several new and revised policies were addressed; the School Safety and Security Subcommittee recently heard an informative presentation on the Western CT Regional Crises team; and Ms. Kimberly LaTourette reported that the Park and Rec Committee has been busy coordinating having pickle ball lines painted on the basketball courts near the Dog Park, and getting ready for many Thanksgiving and Christmas events.
In public comments, Ms. Samantha Kennedy noted that there is a significant gap and lack of engaging activity in the district’s Gifted and Talented program once students enter the Middle School. She asked board members and administrators to consider revamping the program. She sees many high-achieving students opting for private school in order to be challenged. A number which may include her daughter in the near future.
The next regular Board of Education is scheduled for Thursday, November 21, 7pm.
By Sarah Opdahl