WALLINGFORD — School board members showed little support for consolidating the town’s two middle schools, but were more receptive to combining the high schools during a meeting Monday night.
Teachers and parents opposed closing any schools during a Board of Education presentation on possible school restructuring plans.
The school board’s operations committee took no action, but members said they were working to eliminate some of the six plans presented. Those plans ranged from no major changes to consolidating two high schools and two middle schools into one high school and one middle school.
School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said he and other central office staff were opposed to a consolidation of middle schools but didn’t comment on the other five proposals submitted by consultants Milone & MacBroom.
“It would be the largest middle school in the state of Connecticut,” Menzo said of a combined Dag Hammarskjold and Moran middle schools. “There’s no way that would work with one school.”
Board members also expressed opposition to combining middle schools but were more open to keeping the consolidation of the high schools under consideration. A plan to create townwide schools, using existing buildings for different grade groups, got no support from board members.
Consultants said consolidating schools would reduce salary expenses and operating costs, but would increase transportation costs.
With a single high school, Menzo said programs that now would need to be implemented in two locations could be added. He also expected greater sports offerings with a combined high school.
Board members discussed the cost of various options such as renovating schools as new, adding on to existing buildings or just maintaining the current buildings.
Michael Votto, a Board of Education member, said both Dag and Moran middle schools needed “a lot of work.” According to Votto, those capital projects wouldn’t be eligible for state reimbursement.
Member of the public and teachers endorsed smaller schools and spoke in favor of the town’s two-high school tradition.
Lou Faiella, a teacher and president of the Wallingford teachers union, spoke in favor of the option that calls for keeping the existing buildings and tackling capital projects, but not conducting major renovations. Faiella said the plan was the best for students and taxpayers and maintained neighborhood schools.
He opposed plans that would reduce the number of teachers, saying he feels they are needed more than ever because of the growing numbers of children with social and emotional needs.
“We need to be responsible to our students, our students and our members,” he said.
Spectators filled the Lyman Hall High School auditorium for the meeting. Faiella said 150 teachers were in attendance. They were easily identified by their red union shirts and signs.
The school board next meets on Monday and will continue to consider options for possible school reconfiguration.
School board chairwoman Roxane McKay said the board could vote Monday on eliminating some options.