Editor’s note: The online version of this letter has been updated to reflect facts more accurately as received by the writer since its original submission.
To the Editor:
Regarding the consideration of closing Newtown Middle School, I am concerned with being fiscally responsible as a Town at the same time as providing as best as possible for the education of our community’s children.
Our district is already more than halfway through its projected enrollment decline; enrollment peaked in 2006-7 and is projected to be lowest in 2023-24, only 7 years from now. Projected enrollment (trending toward high not medium estimates, with real data from this year) indicates that if NMS is closed, the district will need increased space as soon as 2026-27, only 8 years from possibly closing NMS in 2018-19. If NMS closes, the estimated reduction to a $10,000 tax bill is $50 in the first year and $100 in subsequent years – nearly negligible short-term savings. It is critical to understand also that this limited cost/savings analysis fails to address some very significant costs to taxpayers. These costs are from (1) if the building is returned to the Town, maintenance and renovation/re-purposing, along with future costs of adding onto an existing or building a new school in approximately 10 years; or (2) if the building is retained by the district, maintenance and future renovations to reopen it in approximately 10 years. Closing Newtown Middle School simply does not even make any financial sense at this time.
Separate from financial considerations, and in my opinion most important, are the needs of our students. Middle schools exist across our nation for an important reason. Young adolescents are neither simply older elementary school students nor younger high school students. The actual physical and hormonal changes of puberty have a profound impact upon the cognitive, social, and emotional lives of adolescents, and the changes during that time benefit from a unique educational community. I suggest it speaks for itself that, when asked about research on grade 8-12 models at the October 26 community forum, Superintendent Erardi pointed out that “there are very few models of 8-12.” I oppose closing NMS because I believe the proposed change – which would separate grades 7 and 8 from each other, house 7th graders down with younger grades, and move 8th graders to the high school building to be a single grade of middle schoolers housed with high school students – will be detrimental to the growth, development, and success of most students in those middle grades. I don’t believe the possible short term savings for taxpayers, if even any, will outweigh the significant negative impact on our children with this particular grade reconfiguration of 5-7 and 8-12.
The Board of Education will make this decision as our elected representatives, potentially as soon as November 15. Residents can communicate opinions by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org. I urge the BOE – choose what’s best for both our town and our students in both the short and long term, and do not close Newtown Middle School.
3 Sand Hill Road, Sandy Hook November 7, 2016