Small Schools to Close?

The possibility of having to merge small schools has instigated heated controversy in Litchfield County, Connecticut. A bill proposed by State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff proposes that schools in the Region 6 School District with under 2,000 students would be required to merge with other schools. Currently, he states that the cost of maintaining these small schools is too large. Therefore, the bill aims to save money through regionalization. Bob Duff and supporter Litchfield First Selectman Leo Paul believe the bill would create a system in which more money is being spent on students rather than administrative costs at multiple individual small schools. If the bill passes, schools not complying within five years would be stripped of their Educational Cost Sharing funding, money distributed to public school districts by the state.

Other politicians in Litchfield County believe the bill would disadvantage students. Morris Selectman Thomas Weik argues that families are open to paying higher taxes to live in districts with small schools, because they value the more personalized education their children receive there. Other critics of the bill point out that mergers will threaten special programs, such as the Wamogo Regional High school’s vocational agricultural center. Mr. Charlie Bell, instructor in mathematics, said, “There are some schools right now with programs they feel are valuable for that community; Housatonic is one of them. If it was told to combine with a school in Torrington, where there are very few people who work on farms, that’s where I think establishing a general policy is counterproductive.”  Ms. Lisa Brown, director of events and special projects, said, “I think consolidating the schools would take away from the student experience. For example, on the home front, the commute to and from school would most likely increase, meaning less quality time at home, and potential increased costs for families who have to travel farther.”

It is uncertain whether the bill will gain any more traction in Litchfield County or whether Bob Duff will alter the bill before a vote. All that is certain is that the costly aspect of small schools versus the strengths of local education are dividing Litchfield County citizens.