I have been following the coverage of the Catholic School merger in the media the last two weeks. As a public school teacher and a parent of two children in our public schools one would think that it does not concern me. However, I see the ingredients of a “Perfect Storm” in these events that may cause repercussions for all schools and students in the Naugatuck School System (public and private).
At face value the merger seems harmless. Two schools are consolidated to save on costs in hard economic times. This makes sense. In addition, the name change to St Theresa’s seems logical as to not alienate students from the two schools and to promote the new beginning of a new and unique school. However, there is a catch. The proverbial fly in the ointment is the possible loss of nearly half a million dollars in foundation funds due to this name change. This factor in the equation may cause a ripple effect that Naugatuck may not be equipped to handle. What if the schools are forced to close outright due to a lack of funds?
Nearly 300 students are enrolled at the combined parochial schools. Even if 1/2 of them find new private schools and/or alternative schools that would still leave 150 kindergarten – eighth grade students to be absorbed by a district that is already pushed to its limits spatially as well as fiscally. In a year that the district has gone on record as seeking a zero growth budget for 2011-2012 this will potentially have devastating effects for all public schools and the Naugatuck taxpayers.
Between 150 to 300 more students would mean more teachers, special service personnel, and supplies. The possibility of another redistricting may even need to be looked at. This would cost more money to accommodate for. Higher costs mean higher taxes. This is not a scenario that our town can afford at this juncture.
Even if the district chose to not increase staffing to absorb an influx of students it would be difficult on our community to say the least. This potential population bubble may have negative effects on all students by creating even more over crowded classes. This would make things worse than they are already. The ripple effect may have a negative implication on the entire town.
Nothing exists in a vacuum. Our parochial schools play an important and vital role in the fabric of our community. What impacts them impacts us all. The St Francis/St Hedwig question is important. Important to all of us that call Naugatuck home.