The New Fairfield School District must provide for student safety as much as it must provide the best education possible, so it maintains and reviews facility and safety plans on a regular basis.
During a recent review, and in part due to parent concerns, it was determined that the parking lot of Consolidated School should be redesigned and renovated. The school educates nearly 600 students Pre-K through second grade.
Opened in 1941, Consolidated School came into existence when the town’s various one-room school houses decided to consolidate into one building. Over the years the parking lot and student drop-off area became areas of concern.
“We are always looking to improve on the safety of our buildings and grounds, and one area of concern is parking lots,” said Phil Ross, Director of Buildings and Grounds. “We completed a review of the conditions of the parking lots at all schools and determined that there are some things that could be better at Consolidated School,” he said.
Concerns about the Consolidated parking lot include how tight the lot is and that there is “very little room for error” as cars drive through the lot to park or to drop off students. According to Mr. Ross, the proposed changes aim to reduce the number of spaces in the lot in order to open up the sight lines and to create more space to maneuver a vehicle.
The renovation project would also update the handicap parking spaces, create several new parking spaces near the South Wing and provide for a new sidewalk and crossing to the path that leads to the corner of Ball Pond and Gillotti Roads.
The parking lot renovation project has been approved by the local zoning board and would be done during the summer, taking approximately six weeks to complete. The project is estimated to cost $213,000 and would be funded by the New Fairfield Board of Education Capital and Non-recurring Fund; the district does not anticipate any grant monies being available for renovation work.
The project has not been bid out yet so the contractor has not yet been determined.
Mr. Ross believes that the parking lot renovation is needed for student, staff, parent and visitor safety. “While no parking lot is 100% safe, Dr. Alicia Roy and Consolidated School Principal Rob Spino “put quite a bit of time and energy in to developing this project” with him.
Governor’s State Budget Could Bring a Big Blow to the District/Town
But now he is worried that due to Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed State budget and what it means to school districts that this project may not remain funded.
In early February, Governor Malloy indicated that his budget “includes a bold, forward-thinking plan to address disparities in funding for the State’s education system.” This means that he proposes significant cuts to many school districts by “updating” the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant formula, the State’s main public education grant awarded to every municipality.
Governor Malloy wants to change the formula to make it more “equitable, transparent and fair,” and will now count current enrollment and shifting demographics and decouple Special Education funds from the ECS to allocate funds “on an adjusting scale based on a municipality’s relative wealth.”
This means that New Fairfield could see an 87.5% decrease in ECS grant funds in Fiscal Year 2018, receiving only $543,196 instead of the $4,338,569 received in Fiscal Year 2017, with an additional $1,236,958 for Special Education only. Resident property taxes would have to increase by at least nine percent to make up the shortfall.
By J.U. Azzi