Norwalk City Schools Superintendent Dennis Doughty laughed heartily when he heard the rumor.
And what was it? That the district planned on closing League Elementary.
“There’s no way. We wouldn’t have enough room for all of our students,” Doughty said. “About every classroom is being used.”
League, built in 1915 at 16 E. League St., is the oldest school building being used in Norwalk. It houses about 215 fourth-graders in eight classrooms.
This academic year marks the first time Norwalk has clustered elementary grades in the same building.
Maplehurst Elementary, 195 St. Mary’s St., houses preschoolers, kindergartners and first-graders. Pleasant Elementary, 16 S. Pleasant St., is for second- and third-graders.
The clustering concept came under fire by community members who had concerns about busing, parents having different children in different buildings, how the parentteacher organizations would be handled and the loss of the “community school” identity. Doughty presented the clustering idea to the school board in November 2010. After the district had a work session and hosted community and staff feedback sessions, the concept passed by a 3-2 vote in June.
Doughty was asked what’s gone well.
Having the same elementary grades in the same building offers an opportunity for teachers to interact with each other, he said.
“We have to arrange for them to get together (more),” he added.
Another benefit is equalizing classroom sizes. Doughty said that wasn’t possible when elementary students were spread throughout three buildings.
“We’ve had a few bumps,” the superintendent said.
At Maplehurst, the district had to have more staff members on-duty to welcome students. Doughty also mentioned that the PTOs had work through various issues and teachers have had to become acquainted with new co-workers.
“There are some growing pains with that,” he said. “I think we’re getting through that. I think some good things are going to happen as a result.”
The superintendent also addressed bus routes.
“They didn’t change much. We tried to eliminate transfers. That’s been pretty successful,” Doughty said.
Previously, some elementary students transferred buses at Main Street School. That’s not happening now.
“They get on the bus and they get off the (same) bus,” Doughty said.
Anybody who has had to transfer from one bus or airplane to another during a trip knows it can be stressful, he said. Doughty said transferring school buses could cause even more anxiety for youngsters.
“We’ve been able to take care of that. That’s a real plus,” he added.