Board to hold meeting on potential school closings

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The Board of Education has planned a meeting for April 24 at City Hill Middle School to discuss the potential closings of Central Avenue Elementary School and Prospect Street Preschool. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The Board of Education will meet with residents April 24 to discuss a proposal to close Central Avenue Elementary School and Prospect Street Preschool next year.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at City Hill Middle School, 641 City Hill St.

Chair David Heller proposed the meeting and will organize it, but he was on vacation Thursday when the school board met. In his absence, board members told Michelle Grella, president of the school’s parent-teacher organization, that they hoped to give all members of the public a chance to speak at the meeting but did not know what Heller had planned.

The board held an information session last month for parents of Central Avenue students, but saw a need for a meeting that included others as well.

“There’s somewhat of a budgetary necessity, it seems, to close a school because of the dollars,” school board member Glenn Connan said. “Whatever school closes, the other schools that actually get those kids are going to be affected by it.”

The school board is facing a $1.4 million funding gap next year caused by the loss of federal grant money, and has proposed a $2.6 million increase over this year’s budget to account for rising operating costs. That proposal includes closing the two schools to save approximately $1.5 million.

The board considered closing Salem Elementary School, as was proposed two years ago, but found that students from Central Avenue could be more easily distributed, keeping neighborhood children together and class sizes more uniform, Connan said.

Parents raised concerns over the plan to close Central Avenue.

Christina Alves, of 129 Johnson St., said her daughter is in first-grade at the school and uses a wheelchair. Her neighborhood would go to Salem Elementary if Central Avenue were to close, but Salem is not handicap-accessible, so her daughter would be bused to a different school from her friends, Alves said.

Grella said she feared class sizes would increase beyond what the board projected, due to further financial constraints next year or in years after.

“The numbers look OK now,” Grella said. “You may not be able to hold it to that.”