Plymouth could close a school: Board presents potential options to community

Published on Wednesday, 25 September 2019 20:29
Written by BRIAN M. JOHNSON

@brianjohnsonBP

PLYMOUTH - Several of the options for the town’s public schools including the potential consolidation of schools, which could lead to the closure of others, were presented Wednesday.

The options are the result of a demographics and facilities study conducted to give the school district ideas for adapting to diminishing enrollment projections.

Option one would reconfigure schools so that preschool to second-grade students would attend Plymouth Center School, grades 3 to 5 would go to Fisher Elementary School, grades 6 to 8 would attend Eli Terry Jr. Middle School and grades 9 to 12 would go to Terryville High.

Option two proposes closing an elementary school. Under this plan, preschool through grade 3 would be at either Fisher Elementary School or Plymouth Center School and the school not used would close. Grades 4 to 6 would then be at Eli Terry Jr. Middle School and grades 7 to 12 at Terryville High School.

Option three also looks at closing an elementary school. Under this plan, preschool through grade 3 would be at either Fisher Elementary School or Plymouth Center School and the school not used would close. But, grades 4 to 7 would be at Eli Terry Jr. Middle School and grades 8 to 12 at Terryville High School.

Option four would have Eli Terry Jr. Middle School close. Grades K to 6 would be at Fisher Elementary School and Plymouth Center School would become a Preschool through grade 6 school. Grades 7 to 12 would then be at Terryville High School.

Option five would also close Eli Terry Jr. Middle School. It would have preschool through grade 2 at Plymouth Center School. Grades 3 to 6 would then go to Fisher Elementary School. Grades 7 to 12 would attend Terryville High School.

Superintendent of Schools Martin Semmel stressed at the meeting that the options are only proposals at this point and no decisions have been made on any of them.

“The Board of Education has been very proactive about paying attention to our enrollment numbers. We wanted to do this study for several years, but it was cut due to budgetary reasons until this year when we were able to do it. These are not the only options the board can consider. We are simply listening and receiving feedback. We aren’t making decisions tonight of any kind,” Semmel said.

Melissa Johnson, chair of the Plymouth Board of Education, said “We want to hear from the public, the parents and the taxpayers. It is important to everybody that we don’t make these decisions quickly.”

Plymouth’s enrollment in kindergarten to grade 12 has been trending down. There were 1,780 students enrolled in the 2008-09 school year. In the 2018-19 school year, 1,349 students are enrolled. That is a 24.2 percent decrease over the past 10 years. The study predicted a slower, 177 student decline in student enrollment over the next 10 years.

John Kennedy and Karen LeDuc, consultants with school development council, brought up the studies on a large projector and read off the findings.

Kennedy thanked the Plymouth community for engaging in advanced planning. He said that being prepared for demographic issues is “very important” for the school district.

According to the studies, data indicates that “Plymouth is likely to experience accelerated housing turnover during the course of the next decade.” Baby Boomers are turning 65 and downsizing and Millennials have been slow to marry and have children.

The study said there has been a steady rise in single-family home sales since 2016 that is expected to continue. The study also foresees continued economic stability on the national and regional level.

Resident and parent Candace Telke spoke after each option was presented and said option one is the only one that would not make her considering leaving town. She said she moved back to town because she wanted a small classroom size. She said she is not opposed to regionalization, which plan one allows, but she strongly opposed plan four.

“Plan four would have 12 year olds in the same school with 18 year olds,” Telke said. “Option three is probably the second best, but I would still probably move. I would not allow my children to hang out with 12 year olds if they were eight.”

Jacob Zappone, a senior at Terryville High School, said although he would not be affected, he questioned the logistics of option four. “There’s already a pretty big division between 14 and 18 year olds,” he said. “It seems like questions like this come up with each option except for one.”

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or bjohnson@bristolpress.com.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Plymouth, Terryville on Wednesday, 25 September 2019 20:29. Updated: Wednesday, 25 September 2019 20:31.