Published January 08. 2013 4:00AM
Groton - The school board on Monday approved a redistricting plan designed to correct a racial imbalance and alleviate overcrowding concerns in the town's seven elementary schools.
The 4-2 vote was not without a bit of hesitation by some members perturbed by what some consider antiquated state laws outlining the racial makeup of the state's schools. State law prohibits any one school from having a minority population 25 percent higher or lower than the district average.
The state notified the town that Catherine Kolnaski Magnet School was unbalanced, with several other schools nearing an imbalance.
From the start of the process, Board of Education member Robert Peruzzotti said he was against the idea of shifting school boundaries on what he called "moral grounds," or moving students based on race.
Peruzzotti said that the nearly $500,000 estimate for eight new buses to handle transportation needs associated with the school boundary shift alone should give Groton taxpayers pause. He likened it to an unfunded mandate.
"I've had it to about here with mandates from the state," Peruzzotti said. "This is terrible what they're forcing us to do. I don't think it's best for the kids."
Board member Elizabeth Gianacoplos said the board had worked with Milone & MacBroom, the consultants who crafted the plan, for eight months and gone out of their way to meet concerns of parents. The issue became emotional for some parents in cases where neighborhoods, like Branford Manor, were split into separate districts.
"For me personally the whole problem is overcrowding," Gianacoplos said. "I fear that if we don't pass this tonight we still have a problem. I just see it as creating a chaotic situation."
The entire fifth grade of Catherine Kolnaski was moved to another school because of space constraints.
Board member Kim Watson said that until state law is challenged and changed, the best option was to obey state law and allow school administration to prepare for the changes.
Interim Superintendent John Ramos presented the newest revision of the redistricting plan to staff at the state Department of Education in December. The plan calls for moving 16 percent of elementary school students.
With the board's approval on Monday, the final plan can now be presented to the state Board of Education for a vote. A date for a vote has not been determined.