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Tuesday, January 22 News

More childhood center students to be sent to Stratfield Elementary

FAIRFIELD — Beginning in September, more students from the Early Childhood Center will be split between the program’s current location at Fairfield Warde High School and Stratfield Elementary School.

The decision is a short-term solution to address the increasing number of students at the ECC, a number that has doubled over the last nine years.

According to a presentation from Superintendent Toni Jones and Executive Director of Special Education Robert Mancusi, there were 161 students at the end of the 2017-18 school year. There are currently two pre-kindergarten classes from the ECC at Stratfield because there is not enough room at the facility at Fairfield Warde.

The Board of Education unanimously approved Jones’ recommendation to have part of the ECC held at Stratfield Elementary at its Jan. 8 meeting.

At the meeting, Jones confirmed the board members had gone on tours of the proposed facilities to house half of the ECC program.

“Almost all of the board members went on tours,” Jones said. “A concern that board members had was adjusting bus times and we were able to do that in the morning so that (ECC students) could arrive a little bit later.”

Parents and ECC staff members, dating back to September, have pushed back on the Board of Education’s plans to decentralize the program though enrollment of students keeps steadily increasing.

Jones emphasized that divvying up the ECC between the high school and Stratfield Elementary was a short-term solution, a time lapse that could range from five to 10 years.

Board member Trisha Pytko noted that a long-term solution for the ECC was of foremost importance, and that there would be special meetings on Feb. 20 and 27 regarding other facilities like the elementary schools where parents have voiced concerns about inadequate air conditioning and other factors.

“There are a lot of things to consider like modeling some facilities to meet the criteria that we need,” Pytko said. “We have such big decisions to make and we are scheduling meetings to have those conversations. ... We don’t take any of this lightly.”

Other board members said though splitting up the program was not a permanent solution, they plan to look at other ways to address the issue throughout the rest of the year.

“We are going to be dealing with this in great detail, and I don’t want this to slide to be a short-term to a permanent solution,” Jeff Peterson said. “I have a lot of confidence that this is a good short-term solution and have high hopes that children will flourish at that location.”

Board Chairman Christine Vitale thanked the ECC and Stratfield staff.

“The sentiment is to discuss a long-term solution and how that fits in a long-term plan for our district,” Vitale said. “Keep on advocating to us and other town bodies and share your thoughts with us.”

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humberto.juarez@hearstmediact.com

Humberto J Rocha|Reporter

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