Parents get chance to weigh in on school changes
By Gregory A. Scibelli - Staff Writer
Windsor - posted Thu., Jul. 21, 2011
Very rarely does a major change have lead time like the consolidation of the Windsor public schools at the elementary level.
For parents like Kristin Venturini, it gives her the opportunity to have her concerns aired and considered as a part of the process of transition. She and others attended a focus group on July 19, which gave them input on many subjects.
Venturini has two children, one that is assigned to Oliver Ellsworth School and another attending the new full-day kindergarten program that will be offered a result of the consolidation.
Poquonock Elementary School and Oliver Ellsworth School will be the sites of the new full-day kindergarten classes, as the reconfiguration will require two schools to house the lower elementary grades. The other two schools will hold the upper elementary grades.
Poquonock School, located on Route 75, will be made into a kindergarten through second grade school. Oliver Ellsworth School will have a similar configuration, but will also feature the town’s only preschool-aged programs.
Venturini said she is very happy about the decision for the schools to consolidate and thinks it will be good for the town and provide a good experience for her children. She did have minor concerns about bus schedules and wants to be sure that positive programs remain in the schools that her children attend.
“I want to make sure they continue to promote reading and the Word Wizard program they have always done,” Venturini said. “I am very positive about the transition.”
She said some other logistics concern her for the future, but those concerns are minor.
“I did find it interesting that the two schools chosen for grades three through five are the ones with smaller properties,” she commented.
Interim Superintendent Ernest Perlini said he was pleased with comments made by Venturini and other parents who came out to the focus group at Oliver Ellsworth School. A second location was open to parents at the L.P. Wilson Community Center.
Perlini said he enjoyed the opportunity to meet with parents and hear how they felt about the transition and how it should go. There were 16 specific areas where questions were asked and parents gave feedback about how they felt.
“These opportunities for public input are so important to this process,” Perlini said. “We want the public to feel like we are listening to them and what they want.”
Other opportunities have been offered during the process leading up to a Board of Education decision to close the Roger Wolcott School and reconfigure grade levels at the town’s four elementary schools. The BOE wanted the transition to be smooth, and agreed the change will wait until fall 2012, giving a year for the schools and children to prepare.
However, the change will be happening sooner for some students. Listening to comments made by many parents, several first-graders will begin attending their new assigned school this fall. The decision to accommodate parents was made because more than 80 parents were concerned their children would attend Wolcott this past year, first grade at one school, and then move on to a new location for second grade, and yet another school for third grade.
Now, because of the luxury of space in one elementary school, about 90 first-grade students will attend Poquonock School this fall. There will be no first-graders at Clover Street School and only one class of 22 students at John F. Kennedy School.
“It’s nice because we listened and lot of parents got what they want,” said Perlini. “We are not going to please everybody, but by doing these things, we hope to do what we can to make as many people happy as we can.”
Perlini also said parental involvement in the process is important because school officials and the BOE cannot do it alone.
“We [the administration and BOE] can only do so much, and no one group can think of everything,” said Perlini. “We can’t grant everyone’s wishes, but we certainly want to aim in the right direction.”
Topics parents could comment on included issues about curriculum, special classes, school start times, the potential for age-appropriate student leadership in the schools, and foreign language. Anyone who could not make it to the focus groups can still contact the superintendent’s office to make comments.