Interim Superintendent John Ramos said challenging the state over the racial balance law would create more anxiety in Groton Public Schools, and the district should proceed with redistricting.
Ramos made the comments during a liaison committee meeting of members of the Board of Education, Town Council, City Council and Representative Town Meeting Wednesday night.
“If we were to pursue a challenge and stand down on this effort while that challenge is pending, then the district is set again on this path of uncertainty,” he said. “And it leaves everything in the air. If the challenge is to be made then let that challenge be made, but let us get on with the business of schooling.”
The consulting firm Milone & MacBroom, hired by the school district to come up with a redistricting plan, has revised the plan and will present it to the school board Dec. 12. It would then go forward to the state.
New plan shifts 370 students
The new plan focuses more on correcting school crowding than simply the racial imbalance, indicating it might be necessary either way.
The plan would move 370 elementary students out of a potential 2,090, or about 18 percent of students in those grades. The old plan would have shifted 526 children to new schools.
Ramos said the goal was to keep programs such as the special needs program at S.B. Butler Elementary School where they are, and keep neighborhoods together to the extent possible.
The plan still splits off children from the subsidized housing complex Branford Manor, and moves some of those students out of Catherine Kolnaski Magnet School to correct overcrowding.
Groton was cited for a racial imbalance at the magnet school by the state, ordered to come up with a plan to correct it, and notified about pending imbalances at other schools.
Groton’s elementary schools have a minority population of 41.7 percent as a whole, but this varies widely by school.
At Catherine Kolnaski Magnet, the minority population is 62.9 percent. By comparison, it’s 27.4 percent at S.B. Butler, according to data for the 2012-13 school year compiled by Milone & MacBroom.
But some parents, including those with children at the magnet school, have said the redistricting plan would break up neighborhoods and bus children across the district against their best interests.
On Tuesday, State Rep. Edward Moukawsher told the Town Council 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.
School Board Member Bob Peruzzotti has also questioned the fairness and legality of the state law.
But he said the district asked what would happen if it refused to comply, and was told the state would file an injunction and take Groton to court.