The Groton Board of Education voted 4-2 Monday to approve a redistricting plan that would move about 360 children, or 17 percent of students in kindergarten through grade 4 in the coming school year.
The plan would affect every elementary school, but even out school populations to reduce crowding and correct a racial imbalance to bring the district into compliance with state law.
Board members Shelley Gardner and Robert Peruzzotti voted against.
The plan would cost an additional $440,000 for transportation and require eight additional buses, Interim Superintendent John Ramos said.
However, he said he believed moving forward was the right decision.
“It’s good that the district has a direction,” he said. “That’s what’s most critical at this particular point,” he said.
Peruzzotti said he believed Groton should have challenged the state’s racial balance law.
“The taxpayers of the town of Groton just cannot afford half a million for something that’s not good for kids,” he said.
Gardner she would not support a plan that buses students.
Ramos said he would notify the state Department of Education Tuesday of the board's vote and send it material including the minutes of the meeting. Groton is scheduled to present the plan to the State Board of Education for approval at its February meeting.
The State Department of Education notified Groton school officials more than two years ago that Catherine Kolnaski Magnet School was racially imbalanced, and the situation must be corrected.
A school is determined to be out of balance if minority enrollment in a particular grade and school is more than 25 percentage points below or above the district average.
Groton’s elementary schools have a minority population of 41.7 percent, but it varies widely by school. At the magnet school, the minority population is 62.9 percent, according to data for current school year. By comparison, it’s 27.4 percent at S.B. Butler Elementary in Mystic.
Board Vice Chairwoman Elizabeth Gianacoplos said she agreed with many of Peruzzotti’s sentiments.
But she said the school department worked on the plan for eight months, and must correct crowding in the schools. She said she feared not acting would create chaos for students.
“I do think this is good for children, I think it I will alleviate crowding, I think diversity in all our schools is a benefit for all our kids,” she said.
Board Member Chaz Zezulka said his grandchildren are minority students under the definition the state uses, and pegging children based on skin color disturbs him.
But he said but Groton needs to make changes and has no alternative but the plan.
State Rep. Edward Moukawsher told the Town Council earlier he would defy the state’s racial balance law and refuse to redistict, because he believes the law is unconstitutional. He cited a 2007 Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled districts could not use race to determine admission and that achieving racial balance was not a compelling state interest.
However, School Board Member Kim Watson said he has not yet filed legislation to try to change the law.