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'Spot Redistricting' of Webster Hill Students Will Reduce Overcrowding

As a district, West Hartford expects to undergo a decline in enrollment at most schools, but it has been determined that a small group of students will need to be transferred from Webster Hill to Duffy beginning in the fall of 2013.

Approximately 39 students currently enrolled at Webster Hill Elementary School will be "spot redistricted" to Duffy beginning next fall in order to alleviate overcrowding, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen List told the West Hartford Board of Education Tuesday night.

“This is an isolated response to an isolated circumstance. It doesn’t mean that there are other plans for redistricting,” Board of Education Chair Bruce Putterman said.

The affected students are from the far southeast portion of West Hartford, said List, a neighborhood where students are currently split between three different elementary schools – Webster Hill, Wolcott, and Duffy. Following the redistricting students from that area will only attend two different schools.

When the multi-year enrollment projection was presented to the Board of Education on Nov. 20, 2012, Director of Finance and Planning Chip Ward indicated that the district expects an overall average decline in enrollment of 66 students per year over the next 10 years.

However, at the time Ward indicated that demographics point to a shortage of space in two of the town's elementary schools for the next several years. Ward advised the Board that recommendations about solving the space problems would be forthcoming following further analysis.

At Bugbee Elementary School, which currently has 443 students, enrollment is forecast to increase to a high of 472 students in the 2014-2015 school year. There are currently 21 classrooms in use and estimates indicate a need for as many as 23 classrooms for several years before enrollment is projected to drop again.

At Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen List reported that it now appears that a one-classroom shortage expected at Bugbee for the 2013-2014 year can be accommodated by shuffling some of the school's smaller spaces to create a new classroom.

However, at Webster Hill, where the current student body of 473 is projected to grow each year and peak at 534 is 2017-2018, capacity is of greater concern.

In November, Ward said that Webster Hill, which was renovated several years ago, does not have the ability to handle more than 520 students. Classroom space as well as space in the cafeteria and other parts of the school cannot accommodate a population of that size, he said.

At Webster Hill there are currently a total of six sections in grades 4 and 5, but 17 in grades K-3. There are five kindergarten classrooms this year. The redistricting will reduce the number of required classrooms at Webster Hill by two, "alleviating the shortage in the short term," List said.

Administrators will be meeting with the families of the 39 students scheduled for redistricting. List said that rising 5th grade students can opt to remain at Webster Hill rather than being transferred to Duffy.

Affected streets include Abbotsford Ave., Hollywood Ave., Marion Ave., Merline Ave., New Britain Ave. (from 927-1031, odd numbers only), South St., Southwood Dr., Stafford St., and Stanwood St.

The Board of Education will vote on the redistricting plans at either the Feb. 27 or March 9 meeting.

List said that the last time West Hartford instituted a spot redistricting was in 2000, and that affected Bugbee and Aiken. "This part of West Hartford has not had any redistricting for 20 years," List said.

In her Superintendent's Report, List also advised that the district is continuing to work closely with the West Hartford Police on school safety and security. During the recent holiday break, police conducted shooting scenario practice at Hall, Sedgwick, and Webster Hill. Those drills will continue during other upcoming school vacations, she said.

In addition, List said that police have now been stopping by school buildings during the day as part of a regular routine, to familiarize themselves with the buildings while they are occupied by students and staff.

At the same time, List said, schools are continuing the "delicate balance" of safety while maintaining a welcoming environment for all members of their communities.

List also announced that as of Tuesday, Dr. Nancy DePalma has officially been appointed to the position of assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment. DePalma was named interim assistant superintendent on Nov. 17.

The position of principal at Whiting Lane, which DePalma previously held, will now be posted along with postings for principal positions at Duffy and Hall. Karen Kukish is currently interim principal at Whiting Lane.

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