The Groton Board of Education on Monday approved a redistricting plan for elementary and middle school students that would shift more than 200 students in the coming school year to correct a racial imbalance at Catherine Kolnaski Magnet School and consolidate from three middle schools to two.
Board members said they didn’t want to redistrict, but felt they had little choice.
“I personally don’t have another answer,” Board Member Chaz Zezulka said. The board voted 6-1 for redistricting, with member Shelley Gardner against.
Groton was forced to redistrict elementary students because the state cited Groton last winter for a racial imbalance at Catherine Kolnaski Magnet School. The school had a minority population of 60.3 percent; a school is considered racially imbalanced if the minority population is greater than 25 percentage points above the district average.
Let Patch save you time. Get local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
Kadri said the redistricting plan won’t correct the imbalance but will bring it within a few students of being in compliance.
“If you don’t vote on this, there’s no shot,” he told the board. Voting on the plan could bring the school within one or two students of the state’s rule, he said.
Kadri said he believes the state will accept the plan as a short-term solution.
The redistricting would shift 50 to 60 students out of Catherine Kolnaski to create space so more magnet students may attend. The change would also reduce class size.
One parent said he doesn’t understand why the school department would disrupt students for a plan that won’t bring the school into compliance.
“It’s a band-aid for a wound that’s too big,” he said.
Kadri said two parents with children at Catherine Kolnaski have asked that their children be allowed to stay in the school. He said he would liberally consider requests for exceptions from the redistricting plan.
“I think we have to be extra sensitive to the needs of the families within this area to be able to make accommodations,” he said.
Kadri also said he would try to make arrangements so students moved from Kolnaski to Mary Morrisson Elementary can be bused back to Kolnaski for its after school program.
The Board of Education had hoped to seek a waiver of the racial balance rule, but learned from Connecticut State Board of Education Legal and Governmental Affairs attorney Laura Anastasio, and the Groton School District would be sued.
Kadri said he’d rather push for new legislation rather than challenge the law in court. Groton is also eligible for 80 to 85 percent reimbursement from the state for new school construction that corrects a racial imbalance.
Kadri said Groton could jeopardize that money by getting into a legal fight with the state.
Middle School Redistricting
Under the redistricting plan, students would attend middle schools based on this arrangement: those at Claude Chester, Northeast Academy and S.B. Butler would go to Cutler Middle School.
Students at Catherine Kolnaski, Charles Barnum, Pleasant Valley and Mary Morrisson would go to West Side.
The elementary redistricting plan would have Charles Barnum and Mary Morrisson pick up students from Pleasant Valley so that Pleasant Valley could take neighborhood children out of Catherine Kolnaski Magnet, freeing up space.
The idea is that added space would allow more magnet students from outside the neighborhood to attend.
Some specific changes are below:
- Charles Barnum would pick up students from the area of Ohio Avenue, Michigan Drive and Georgia Street who now attend Pleasant Valley.
- Pleasant Valley would extend its area south and pick up students from streets around Riverview Avenue.
- Mary Morrisson would cover additional territory to the south and pick up students from the Bayberry Hill Road area, Virginia Avenue and parts of Elderkin Avenue and Rainville Avenue.
- Claude Chester would keep Midway Oval in its district. Students on Kings highway, Pamela Avenue and Bonnie Circule would continue attending Claude Chester. In an earlier plan, they would have been moved to Mary Morrisson.
- Butler would keep Ring Drive, and would add an area to the north including High Meadow Lane and Daniel Brown Drive.