Enfield Board of Education stands firm on district lines

By Tom Phelan - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Fri., Feb. 25, 2011
Denise Dionizio of the YWCA explained their before- and after-school plan, which would provide an alternative to students' daycare arrangements. Photo by Tom Phelan
Denise Dionizio of the YWCA explained their before- and after-school plan, which would provide an alternative to students' daycare arrangements. Photo by Tom Phelan

Enfield’s Board of Education convened in the cafeteria at JFK Middle School on Feb. 8 to let the other shoe drop on their elementary school reorganization plan. A plentiful number of concerned and dissatisfied parents turned out to register a last-ditch plea for concession.

The decision that forces all K-5 students to attend the school in their home district can have a disruptive affect on their daycare arrangements. Before the Tuesday night decision, many students were permitted to attend an elementary school convenient to their daycare provider’s location.

But balancing the enrollment at all Enfield elementary schools would still be problematic if the more than 300 students currently attending schools based on the convenience of their daycare arrangements were still allowed exceptions to the rule.

Many of the parents who came forward to appeal for leniency in the proposed policy, allowing certain circumstances to prevail, cited the benefit their children had received from attending the Enfield Child Development Center on South Road. It wasn’t until all interested parents had been heard and the agenda turned to board comments that it was revealed that the ECDC was run by the town – not the school system – and arrangements were in process to bus their students to and from their schools.

After clearing up some confusion about the nature of the voting, the board's roll call vote tallied seven votes in favor and one opposed. Peter Jonaitis replying “absolutely not” when his name was called. He had moved, without support, to have the policy changes tabled for further consideration of the impact and to look for “creative” solutions.

Two policies, as amended, combine to both balance school enrollments, while relieving the school system from making exceptions to accommodate families’ daycare arrangements. One policy requires students to attend the schools assigned to their districts. A second provides for transportation to/from a child’s daycare provider only if that provider is within the child’s school district.

Before the BOE even opened the floor for public comment, and before the actual vote on the two controversial policies, they entertained a presentation by representatives of the Hartford area YWCA, which would offer before- and after-school care in Enfield school facilities.

Denise Dionizio, Director of Early Learning and Child Care Centers for the Hartford Area YWCA, said her organization offered YW Kidslink – a before and after-school program for children in grades K-5 at 13 schools in five Connecticut communities – Bolton, Manchester, West Hartford, Rocky Hill and Wethersfield.

Dionizio explained that the centers typically open at 7 a.m. – usually in a school cafeteria – providing morning activities that include finishing homework and projects. They provide breakfast/snack, and usually get ready for the school day by 8:30.

Afternoon care starts about 3:00 p.m., or whenever school is released. Afternoon activities start with some physical release, and include reading and other academic-related activities. The before and after school program, five days per week, would cost $85, and offer sibling discounts.

School Superintendent Dr. John Gallacher explained that the K-8 Reorganization Oversight Committee had also entertained presentations from Educational Resources for Children (ERfC), as well as the Enfield Parks and Recreation program.

The consensus among our committee was that this group [YWCA] had the most to offer us.” They are still talking with ERfC about services for the middle school program, which they have run at JFK for several years. Gallacher noted that current Eli Whitney principal Timothy Van Tassel was at one time employed by the YWCA program.

Gallacher said they would probably have the before- and after-school programs in the four primary schools and the intermediate students would be bused to those buildings to be covered by those program services.

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